Monday, June 7, 2010

Park Ranger Assaulted at Gulf Islands Over Dog Off Leash

The following is taken from and dated June 6

A couple were arrested Saturday after a man reportedly pepper-sprayed a National Park Service ranger at Johnson Beach on Perdido Key.

The man, David Watkins, 39, of Pace, is charged with aggravated battery on an officer. His wife, Janna Simon, 41, address unavailable, is charged with battery on an officer and resisting an officer with violence, Dane Tantay, Florida district ranger for the Park Service said.

The couple are being held in Escambia County Jail. Watkins was being held on $50,000 bond. Simon was being held on $5,000 bond. A court date is set for June 25.

Here is what park rangers say happened:

At about 1:30 p.m., a female ranger approached Simon near Pavilion H at Johnson Beach and began to write her a ticket for having a dog on the beach. The National Park Service would not release the ranger's name.

"We don't allow dogs in Escambia or Santa Rosa County," Tantay said. "Gulf Islands National Seashore follows suit."

The ranger also began questioning Simon about an open container of alcohol in her hand, Tantay said.

That's when Watkins allegedly pepper-sprayed the ranger, who drew her gun.

"When an officer is under that kind of duress and gets pepper-sprayed by an individual, they have the authority to protect themselves and others," Tantay said.

However, witnesses said the ranger pulled her gun right after she ticketed the couple for having an animal on the beach.

Witness Tricia Simon, Janna Simon's sister, also said she thought the ranger was reaching for a Taser stun gun to shock the couple's dog, Abbey. Tricia Simon said the dog had approached the ranger in a friendly, nonthreatening manner.

The investigation is ongoing, Tantay said.

Tantay said bringing pets onto the National Seashore's beaches is a petty misdemeanor.

Violators face up to $85 in fines.

"It's a huge problem," he said. "Especially this time of year. We have our shore bird-nesting season. Dogs can be detrimental to the birds."

Tantay said pets are allowed in parking lots, but only if they are leashed. And they cannot be left in vehicles unattended.


  1. The officer that got pepper sprayed was Mellisa Taylor and apparently has a huge power trip issue. She recently arrested a young man on mothers day for tryin to camp on johnsons beach. We need park rangers but this lady is abusing her authority, she should be fired.

  2. And why ask about about an open container of alcohol in her hand ? Unless it was a glass container, alcohol is legal on that beach.
    Watkins plead no contest to resisting arrest (pulling your hand away from handcuffs gets that charge). The prosecutor refused to prosecute on the battery charge.
    Janna Simon never went to court as the prosecutor refused to prosecute her at all.
    Rogue Ranger who does not know the law.