CARLSBAD, N.M. — Charles “Gage” Lorentz was on his way home to Colorado.
Lorentz, 25, had been working in the oil industry in Texas when he got behind the wheel March 21 to head home for a family visit. Along the way, he stopped to meet a friend at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Within minutes of his arrival at the park, Lorentz was shot dead by a National Park Service ranger, who had confronted him for allegedly speeding on a dirt road in the Rattlesnake Springs area of the park.
Newly released body camera footage obtained by KOB 4 in Albuquerque shows Lorentz offered no provocation before Ranger Robert Mitchell pulled a Taser on him. The footage abruptly goes black as Mitchell deploys the stun gun.
When it resumes 26 seconds later, Mitchell has Lorentz on the ground and the ranger is on top of him. Mitchell then fires his service weapon twice, hitting Lorentz in the leg and the chest, KOB4 reported.
As the mortally wounded Lorentz writhes on the ground, Mitchell shouts at him that he’s under arrest. Several minutes pass before Mitchell places handcuffs on the now-motionless man.
Another seven minutes pass before Mitchell retrieves his first aid kit from his vehicle to render medical help, the news station said.
“That officer needlessly stole my son’s life,” Travis Lorentz told KOB 4 in an interview at his home in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Gage Lorentz’s obituary described him as a “hard-working and dedicated young man” who was the first to help a person out.
“Gage found pride and joy in his family, in standing true to being the best big brother in the world, his pups, and in his ability to bring peace in times of quarrel,” the obituary read.
Police and autopsy reports obtained by the news station indicate Gage Lorentz had neither drugs nor alcohol in his system when he was shot. Three witnesses told investigators that Mitchell lunged at Lorentz, at which point Lorentz fought back.
Mitchell is on administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation. National Park Service officials told KOB 4 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is also looking into whether Lorentz’s civil rights were violated.
‘10-99, shots fired’
The footage begins with Mitchell pointing at Lorentz and telling him to step in front of his patrol vehicle. Gage Lorentz, who appears to be casually chewing gum, does so.
After Mitchell asks him to spread his feet, Lorentz dances for a moment to music that can be heard in the background, apparently played by other visitors to the park.
Mitchell doesn’t appear to be amused.
“Come on,” a smiling Lorentz tells the ranger. “That was pretty good timing, right?”
Mitchell asks Lorentz if the people nearby, but out of sight of the body camera, are his friends.
“No, I don’t know who the (expletive) that is,” Mitchell says.
A small smile remains on Lorentz’s lips for several seconds as Mitchell is silent. The next command Mitchell makes is for Lorentz to turn around.
Lorentz calmly refuses to turn his back to the ranger.
The video shows Mitchell step further away from Lorentz, apparently pulling his Taser from his belt.
“Oh, come on, get real with it,” Lorentz says. “The other one.”
“No,” Mitchell says.
As Mitchell tells Lorentz to turn around and take his hands out of his pockets, the Taser becomes visible in the ranger’s hands.
Watch the footage of Gage Lorentz’s shooting below, courtesy of KOB 4. Warning: The video contains graphic images.
Mitchell’s command for Lorentz to remove his hands from his pocket is not completely out of his mouth when the sound of the Taser deploying can be heard.
That’s when the screen goes black. KOB 4 reported that the darkness lasts for 26 seconds.
When the footage begins again, the confrontation between Mitchell and Lorentz has escalated. As the men struggle on the ground, gunshots go off.
The first shot, which struck Lorentz’s thigh, missed all vital arteries and was survivable, according to his autopsy report.
The second shot, which KOB 4 reported pierced Lorentz’s heart, was fired as Mitchell held Lorentz on the ground with his left hand and his pistol’s muzzle against Lorentz’s chest with his right.
“10-99, shots fired,” Mitchell relays into his radio following the shooting.
The news station reported that more than three minutes elapsed before Mitchell put handcuffs on the now-unconscious Lorentz, who he again tells that he is under arrest.
It takes another eight minutes for Mitchell to get a duffel bag with first aid supplies out of the back of his patrol vehicle.
First aid for Lorentz began a total of 12 minutes after he was shot, KOB 4 reported.
‘Then the fight was on’
Mitchell is heard explaining what he says took place during the 26 seconds when the video went blank. He is seen and heard telling an Eddy County deputy that shooting Lorentz with the Taser did nothing because the barbs did not penetrate the fabric of Lorentz’s jacket.
He stepped closer to “dry stun” Lorentz, or use the Taser directly against the man’s skin, KOB 4 said.
“I went for a dry stun. He hit me somewhere right here on the side of my head,” Mitchell tells the deputy.
The deputy looks at the left side of Mitchell’s head and says he observes some swelling.
“Then the fight was on. He grabbed me around the neck and he tried to push my head into the push bar, and I came up and fired one round,” Mitchell continues. “I don’t know if I got him or not, but I definitely got him on the second one and he crumpled.”
As Mitchell explains the shooting, additional deputies can be seen performing CPR on Lorentz in the background of the footage.
Travis Lorentz told KOB 4 that no one from the National Park Service has reached out to him about his son’s death. He told a reporter that he is upset by the lack of information provided to the family.
“It bothers me,” he told the news station. “It makes me think they’re trying to cover something up.”
“I dropped to my knees, screaming,” Gage Lorentz’s mother, Kym Beck, said of learning of her son’s killing.
Beck said she spent days on the phone trying to find out more information about what took place.
“I think not having any answers has been difficult on my family,” she told KOB 4.
The news station reported that the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting and turned its results over to Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce.
Luce, however, is concerned about the 26 seconds of missing footage.
“We’ve now been informed that perhaps that it was either a miscommunication that what we have is all of it, or there is some additional (material) that they’ve now been able to recover,” Luce told the station. “We want to inquire about that. We think that’s really important to know we have everything that was recorded.”
Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney representing Lorentz’s family, plans to sue the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior for violating his civil rights.
“Let’s start with the fact that this man takes out a Taser and shoots Gage with no provocation from Gage whatsoever,” Kennedy told KOB 4. “There is no communication, there is no de-escalation.”
Mitchell never warned Lorentz beforehand that he would use force against him if necessary.
“That park ranger is insane. He’s out of his mind. What is he arresting him for? Driving too fast down a country road?” Kennedy said. “And he takes his life over that? It’s a citation. It’s a warning. It’s not a death sentence.”
Meanwhile, Lorentz’s loved ones are left to grapple with his death. His obituary describes him as an outdoorsman who loved hunting and riding four-wheelers with his father.
“He loved rebuilding vehicles with his dad, playing video games through all hours of the night with his sister and just spending quality time with his family,” the obituary read.
Lorentz’s sister, Skylar Kerrigan, cried softly as she spoke to KOB 4.
“It shocks me that someone could do such a horrible thing to such a sweet person,” Kerrigan told the news station.