September 14, 2005

Man Who Threatened Rangers Sentenced to Jail

National Park News
Mojave National Preserve

A Newberry Springs man who admitted to pointing a loaded .30-caliber M-1 carbine at federal law enforcement officers who were investigating possibly unlawful digging in the park was sentenced on September 12th to eight months in federal prison.

Leo H. Spatziani, 62, had previously pleaded guilty to one felony count of assaulting, resisting, intimidating and impeding federal law enforcement officers during the confrontation, which occurred on February 12th.

In sentencing Spatziani and rejecting the defendant's plea for probation, the judge said that the high desert was "not the wild west" and all citizens have a responsibility to respect the law.

The judge, who also imposed a $2,000 fine, ordered Spatziani to begin serving his prison term within 30 days.

Spatziani is the friend of another man who owns a small parcel of private property within Mojave National Preserve. The friend had recently constructed a small cabin on National Park Service land near a desert spring, which was outside of his private property line.

In early February, the friend was observed operating a trenching machine at the spring. In addition to being on federal land, the area around the cabin is documented as containing archeological and cultural resources.

On February 12th, two uniformed NPS rangers contacted Spatziani and his friend regarding the trenching activity. While one of the rangers was photographing the trenching activity, Spatziani removed the M-1 carbine from a vehicle. He placed a magazine in the weapon and chambered a round. He then pointed the weapon at the ranger who was taking pictures and began advancing on him.

Despite repeated commands to drop the weapon, Spatziani continued to advance with his weapon in the ready firing position. The threatened officer was forced to take defensive cover behind one corner of the cabin and draw his service weapon.

During the ensuing stand-off, the rangers observed that the eight-year-old child of the private property owner was within the line-of-fire. Fearful for the safety of the child and the other individuals, including Spatziani, the two rangers decided to de-escalate the dangerous situation by slowly withdrawing to their marked patrol vehicle and leaving the area.

Spatziani was arrested in Yermo on February 17th by NPS agents.