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National Park Service investigates video showing a ranger using a Taser on a Native American man walking his dog off-trail

Darrell House, who identifies as Native American, uploaded a nearly five-minute video to social media that shows a National Park Service ranger using a Taser on him. House says the officer abused his power because he is Indigenous. (Instagram screengrab via Darrell House)

Darrell House was walking through the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque on Sunday with his dog and his sister when he strayed off the marked trail. House, who identifies as Native American, says that he’s often done so in the past to pray on land he considers his ancestral home.

This time, though, he was confronted by a National Park Service ranger. Moments later, House was lying on the ground in a fetal position, crying for help as the officer repeatedly used a Taser on him.

“Stop!” House pleads with the officer in a nearly five-minute video shot by his sister. “I don’t have anything sir … I’m a peaceful person.”

House later uploaded the video to Instagram and accused the officer of abusing his power and injuring him and his dog.

“This could have been a civil interaction,” House said in a post. “The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous.”

As the video racked up thousands of views online, the National Park Service opened an investigation into the case and on Tuesday released a nearly 10-minute recording from the officer’s body camera footage. While the case remains open, the service noted that the video shows both House and his sister giving the ranger fake names.

“Prior to the officer using his electronic control device, or taser, the officer attempted to resolve the interaction with an educational contact and simple warning,” the National Park Service said in a statement. “During this initial interaction, both individuals provided fake names and dates of birth to the officer.”

But House defended his conduct on Tuesday, arguing to NBC News that as a Native American, he had the right to freely worship on the land — even in closed areas.

“I didn’t see a reason to give my identification. I don’t need to tell people why I’m coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don’t need permission or consent,” House told NBC.

As House’s video has gone viral this week, it has raised criticisms of police treatment of Native Americans, some of whom joined in protests against police brutality this year to raise awareness of what they say is a history of mistreatment by law enforcement.

Longtime police brutality drove American Indians to join the George Floyd protests

House and his sister were walking their dog Geronimo along a trail on Sunday when they saw a large group of visitors ahead, House told KRQE. They decided to walk through a blocked off area to maintain social distancing, the station reported.

The nearly 10-minute body camera footage later released by the National Park Service shows the officer, who hasn’t been named, approaching House and his sister to talk “about the off-trail stuff.”

“You guys got to stay on the trail. All right?” the ranger told the pair before asking them not to hop on the rocks which are “super sacred to the tribes.” The monument is home to more than 25,000 petroglyph images carved by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.

House then showed him his necklace, adding that he belongs to the tribe. “This is my land,” he told the ranger.

After the ranger asked the pair if the rules made sense, to which they both nodded, the ranger asked them for IDs. House began walking away, the video shows.

“Sir, you’re not free to go right now. Hold on,” the ranger told House. “Please don’t be like that. This is just a simple contact that is honestly a warning. I don’t expect it to be more than that.”

In a statement, the National Park Service said both House and his sister then provided fake names and dates of birth. The ranger then followed both House and his sister as they walked away and told House he would be detained if he refused to provide his correct information.

“I don’t want to ID myself,” said House, who by then had started recording the interaction on his phone.

The situation escalated after the officer asked House to release his dog, and House refused and began walking away again. “Stop walking or you’re going to make me tase you,” the officer replied.

Suddenly, House began yelling for help, and the officer moved forward and used the Taser on him. House fell to the ground, pleading with him to stop. The officer asked House to show him his hands. House appeared to comply, raising both hands, but the officer continued to use the Taser. “I don’t have anything,” House yelled. “You’re escalating this.”

House struggled with the officer as he tried to handcuff him. Eventually, after another officer arrived and also pointed a Taser at him, House stopped resisting.

House told KRQE he believes the officer used excessive force against him because he is Native American. On Instagram, he said his left leg was numb and still bleeding.

“He wanted to show power, dominance, keep me in order,” he told KRQE. “That’s what authority figures are trained to do, to keep people like me in order. To make the ‘Indian’ look crazy, to make them look insane.”

In the end, House was not arrested, but received three citations for walking in an unauthorized area, providing false information and failing to comply with a lawful order, the National Park Service said. His sister was also cited for providing false information and walking in a closed-off area.

The service said on Tuesday that internal affairs investigators would interview the officers involved, speak with witnesses and review footage of the incident.

House told KRQE that he plans to return to the monument and will continue walking off-trail to pray.

“That is my right,” he said.

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