Friday, October 19, 2007

Elephant Butte ranger sentenced to probation

Park ranger Clyde Woods has been sentenced to 5 years probation and 1 year house arrest for fatally shooting an unarmed belligerent camper who refused to pay his camping fee. Details about the shooting can be found in the post: The Incident at Elephant Butte Lake.

New Mexico park ranger gets five years probation in shooting death (Albuquerque Tribune)

A former New Mexico State Parks ranger has been sentenced to five years' probation and one year of house arrest in the fatal shooting of a man in a dispute over a campsite fee at Elephant Butte State Park.

State District Judge Kevin Sweazea on Wednesday ordered Clyde Woods to wear an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet for a year before serving probation.

Woods pleaded guilty in March to voluntary manslaughter in the August 2005 death of Bruce Teschner, 58. Teschner - who according to testimony was drunk and had a history of mental illness - refused to pay a $14-a-night camping fee and refused to leave the park.

Woods said he acted in self-defense. He said Teschner turned and made a motion as if he were pulling a weapon. Witnesses said Teschner was running away when he was shot.

State Police said at the time that the camper resisted arrest and was moving away from Woods, apparently keeping his hands in his pockets, when the fatal shots were fired.

Teschner was shot twice in the back of the neck, authorities said.

Special Prosecutor Scot Key had sought the maximum punishment for Woods, seven years behind bars. But defense attorney Gary Mitchell asked Sweazea to give Woods probation.

Before the sentencing, clinical psychologist Eric Westfried testified for the defense that Woods poses no threat to the community. He also told the court that a more thorough psychological evaluation before Woods was admitted to the police academy might have found him an unsuitable candidate for law enforcement.

The victim's brother, Charles Teschner, testified that arthritis forced his brother to give up his jewelry-making business, and he had been given a diagnosis of depression and put on medication. He said his brother was "obviously self-medicating with alcohol" in the last months of his life.

He told the judge that he believed Woods had to know that his brother was unarmed.

Several community members told the judge that Woods was a dedicated father, an avid community volunteer and an asset to his hometown.

Woods apologized to Teschner's family for taking the man's life but said he did the best he could with what he had the evening he was called to Teschner's campsite.

"I'm sorry for what happened," Woods said as he sobbed and looked briefly at Teschner's family.

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