Charles “Gage” Lorentz, 25, was driving from his job site in Texas to his family’s home in Colorado earlier this year when he was pulled over for speeding in New Mexico by a national park ranger.
The ranger ended up shooting and killing the unarmed man.
National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell was wearing a body camera but 26 seconds has mysteriously disappeared from the footage of the incident. Prosecutors say they are trying to recover the footage before making a decision whether to charge Mitchell. The footage that exists was released to local media Thursday.
The shooting took place on March 21 after Mitchell had pulled Lorentz over for speeding down a dirt road in the Rattlesnake Springs area of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. For some reason, Mitchell ordered Lorentz out of his truck. The audio on the footage does not begin until after Lorentz was out of the truck.
The video published by KOB-TV begins with Mitchell ordering Lorentz to spread his legs and turn around so he could be frisked but Lorentz does not turn around.
Instead, Lorentz did a few dance moves to music that was playing but the ranger was not amused and pulls out his taser and steps back.
“Oh, come on, get real with it,” Lorentz says, seemingly daring the ranger to pull out his handgun instead. “The other one.”
“No,” the ranger responds.
“Yeah,” Lorentz says, placing his hands in his pockets.
“Turn around, take your hands out of your pockets,” Mitchell says, tasering him less than a second later.
That was when 26 seconds of the footage goes missing.
When the footage picks back up, Mitchell and Lorentz are wrestling on the ground and the ranger shoots him twice before stepping away, pointing his gun at Lorentz, who is lying facedown on the ground with bullet wounds to his chest and leg.
More than three minutes later, Mitchell walks up and places handcuffs on him, telling the still breathing Lorentz he is under arrest. More than eight minutes go by before Mitchell removes the first aid kit from his car. And more than 12 minutes go by since the shooting before the ranger begins administrating first aid to the still-breathing victim.
So what happened during those missing 26 seconds?
This is how he explained it to an Eddy County sheriff’s deputy in the video.
“That’s when I shot him with a Taser. It did nothing. I went dry stun, he hit me somewhere right here on the side of my head. The fight was on, he grabbed me around the neck, he tried to push my head into the push bar and I came up and fired one round. I don’t know if I got him or not, but I definitely got him on the second one and he crumbled.”
A toxicology report determined Lorentz had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he was killed. An autopsy determined the first bullet penetrated the thigh but missed all major arteries. The second shot, however, went through his heart and killed him.
According to KOB-TV:
The Eddy County Sheriff’s Department investigated Gage Lorentz death and turned over its findings to Dianna Luce, the 5th Judicial District Attorney. She is concerned about the missing 26 seconds of missing lapel video. She said she does not want to rule if Ranger Mitchell’s shoot was justified or not until she has all of the materials and evidence, which includes the missing video.
“We’ve now been informed that perhaps that there was a miscommunication or there is some additional material that they can now recover,” District Attorney Luce said. “We think that is really important to know that we have everything that was recorded.”
The National Park Service, through an email, and District Attorney Luce both confirmed the U.S. Attorney’s Office is also investigating. Their role, according to DA Luce, is to determine if Lorentz’s constitutional rights were violated when Ranger Mitchell shot and killed him.
Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney in Albuquerque, represents Gage Lorentz’s family and plans on filing a lawsuit against the United States Interior Department, National Park Service.
“Let’s start with the fact that this man takes a Taser and shoots Gage with no provocation from Gage whatsoever,” Kennedy said. “There is no communication, there is no de-escalation. That park ranger is insane. He’s out of his mind. What is he arresting him for? Driving too fast down a country road? And he takes his life over that? It’s a citation. It’s a warning. It’s not a death sentence.”
Watch the clip above which consists of existing body camera footage. Watch KOB-TV’s news report below which consists of interviews with family members.