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No fines for hiker who cried 'lion'
Original post made
on Jul 17, 2008
The man whose reported weekend mountain-lion attack in Palo Alto's Foothills Park was found "unsubstantiated" by state officials will not be charged with making a false report, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan said today.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Thursday, July 17, 2008, 2:49 PM
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Posted by Tom Lindsay
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:25 pm
The officials who dealt with this incident where confronted with what they decided was a threat to public safety and quickly decided to take aggressive action to resolve the potential problem. I am sure they thought they made the best decisions they could given the limited, frightening information they possessed and the pressures they were under.
However, it seems to me that the cart was shoved way before the horse in this case.
Additional, salient information could have been gained in a few hours. This information would have relieved the pressure and most likely would have nipped this story in the bud before it ever saw the light of day. Instead it blossomed into a full-blown, embarrassing, and wasteful fiasco.
This information could have been gained if the officials in charge had following rational, unemotional, procedures so they could answer, â€œyes" to the following questions:
1. It sounds like the hiker first reported his â€œattack" by placing a phone call to, I assume, the Palo Alto Police Department since Palo Alto Police Agent Ryan was prominently quoted in subsequent news articles. If this was the case, given this unbelievably bizarre, exceedingly rare, human-cougar account, was the hiker required to immediately appear in person to tell his story and fill out a detailed police report BEFORE any official or public action was taken to address his alleged attack?
2. Also, given the strange nature of the report, was the hiker instructed to bring with him all of the clothes he was wearing at the time of the alleged attack and any other items that were on his person (binoculars, cameras and the like)?
3. After the hiker filled out the incident report, which must require a signature swearing the veracity of what was written under penalty of law, was the first interview conducted by at least two police investigators trained in the art of separating fact from fiction?
4. After the investigators heard his story and read his account in the police report, was their first request (or one of their first) to examine the hiker's clothes worn during the attack? Assuming the hiker remembered to bring them, did the investigators start with the shirt - the area of alleged cougar contact? Did they notice that it had no rips that might have been caused by razor sharp claws that cougars ALWAYS unsheathe when they jump on the back of their prey (usually deer - humans only 16 times since 1890) to secure their prey so the cougar can then bite though its neck? Did the investigators also notice there were no obvious tawny-colored hairs clinging to the shirt? Did they brush the shirt onto a white surface (photocopy paper would do) and notice that NOT EVEN ONE cougar hair, missed on first look, revealed itself?
5. Although unnecessary at this point, but to be thorough, did the investigators ask the hiker to remove his shirt so they could determine if his back displayed any evidence that a cougar had jumped on it, struck with enough force to knock the hiker off his feet and send him skidding down a slope say 15 feet, give or take? If the hiker consented to remove his shirt, did the officials notice that, just like the shirt, there were no cougar-claw lacerations, and unlike the shirt, that there were no bruises (surely to be evident if the hiker's account were true)?
6. Did the investigators ask the hiker to explain why there was absolutely no physical evidence on this shirt or his bare back that indicated a chipmunk, let alone a cougar, had been anywhere near his person? Were they getting even more suspicious when the hiker produce no coherent explanation but stammered a lot?
7. At this point did the investigators inform (hopefully remind) the hiker that filing a false police report is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or fines? Did the hiker continue to stammer, ask to call his lawyer or begin to show any recognition that the cat was out of the bag?
8. Did the officials then do whatever seemed most effective, given the hiker's present mental, emotional, stammering state, to let the hiker back off his fabrication and tell them what was really going on? Based on what the hiker told them, did they shred the police report and tell him to admit to his wife that he had fabricated the cougar story. That he really acquired the scrapes and bruises when he fell off that bluff she insisted a man his age couldn't possibly climb - and knowing she was a cougar-lover would agree with him that they shouldn't report the attack because the authorities would just rush out and kill the animal? (Turned out she feared more for the public than the cougar and threatened to tell the authorities if he didn't) Or did they call in a psychiatrist because the man seemed prone to fantasy, was delusional or patently insane? Or did they charge him with a crime, allow him to call his lawyer and throw him gently, so not to bruise his back, into the slammer?
Given how this pathetic incident played out, it seems clear that the answer to most if not all of these questions is â€œno". The next time officials are tempted to buy the unbelievable simply because the lie is SO big and SO frightening, I hope they will take a couple of calm hours so they can answer, â€œyes". It will save everyone including them a lot of time, money, energy, emotion, embarrassment, hysteria, and in this case, possibly the life of an innocent cougar which happened to be in the wrong part of HIS territory when the dogs and gun arrived.