Yellowstone National Park Tourist Sentenced To Jail for Assaulting Officers

by Matthew Memrick
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A California tourist who assaulted Yellowstone National Park officers must serve jail time after a September 25 incident.

Benjamin J. Bagala pleaded guilty to three counts of assaulting, resisting, and impeding officers during a drunken outburst at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

USA Today reported that the 27-year-old man now must serve nine months in jail. Officials recognized the man’s previous four days of jail time in the sentencing.

The Santa Rosa man also pleaded guilty to one count of depredation against U.S. property and has to pay $2,865.42 plus a $100 special assessment fee as part of the restitution. 

Yellowstone Tourist Must Surrender By March 4

Bagala appeared by video teleconferencing on Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman.

U.S. District Atty. Bob Murray also said the man, who cannot enter the park after his release, has 44 days to surrender to federal authorities. After his sentence, he must endure a year of supervised release with special conditions.  

Those conditions include no use or possession of alcohol and no entry into bars, pubs, or places where alcohol is present. The man must continue the alcohol treatment plan with his probation officer.

On September 25, authorities said there was evidence that Bagala’s heavy drinking led to his harassment of hotel guests at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Court documents said Bagala was “howling” at guests. The man also threatened a security guard with “threatening behavior.” 

Another guest reported that the man was “stomping around the hotel.”

MontanaRightNow reported that the man ran through the halls and broke hotel items. 

Bagala reportedly got angrier when a park law enforcement officer arrived at the scene. The officer was assaulted and used his taser device “to safely gain control” of the situation.

Man Hurts Two Officers En Route to Hospital

The California man injured himself with cuts on his hands, arm, and face. Two additional Yellowstone Park officers transport the man by ambulance to the Livingston Hospital in Montana. 

During that 119-mile trip, Bagala took off his seatbelt and “fought with” an officer in the back. A second officer driving the ambulance had to stop at one point to help restrain Bagala. Both officers suffered injuries during the trip, with one officer getting kicked in the head twice.

The Cowboy State Daily reported that rangers returned to the hotel to survey the damages after Bagala’s hospital trip.

Bagala’s drunken damages at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel included broken plates, doors, light fixtures, and two plexiglass shields. The man’s blood smeared lobby walls and surrounding areas. 

The 1891-built hotel is a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark and is the oldest operating hotel in the park. There was no report on how soon officials repaired the hotel areas.

Outsider.com