Yellowstone tourist gets prison after drunken fit, feds say


The Lake Yellowstone Hotel reported nearly $2,900 in damages, feds said.

National Park Service

A California man who went on vacation to Yellowstone ended up sentenced to nine months in prison and banned from the park, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Benjamin Bagala, a 27-year-old from Santa Rosa, visited the national park and stayed at Lake Yellowstone Hotel on Sept. 25, 2021, authorities said.

“Bagala was drinking heavily and began harassing guests, running through the halls, breaking things and eventually approached a security guard with threatening behavior,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a Jan. 19 news release.

The Lake Yellowstone Hotel had nearly $2,900 in damages from broken plexiglass shields used during the COVID-19 pandemic, at least six broken plates and broken door frames and lights, according to court documents.

Blood was also splattered on the hotel lobby floor, walls, staircase and ceiling, officials said in court documents.

A police officer was called to the hotel and said Bagala initially “took a fighting stance,” according to court documents. The tourist told the officer he would not stop his behavior and continued to walk toward him, the officer said in a probable cause statement.

The officer pushed Bagala away with his hands, and the tourist reached for the officer’s radio microphone connector cable, according to court documents. He pulled the cord with enough force to rip the leather holster and tear the cable.

The man then exited the hotel and the officer followed. Bagala turned toward the officer and started attempting to punch the officer, officials said in the court documents. The officer then deployed his taser.

“Bagala was extremely intoxicated and displayed injuries from earlier activities, so an ambulance was called,” the Attorney’s Office said. “Two additional law enforcement officers arrived to transport Bagala to the Livingston Hospital in Montana.”

During the ambulance ride, Bagala broke free from his restraints and fought with an officer, officials said. The ambulance driver needed to pull over to assist, and both officers were injured.

Bagala was sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to pay $2,865 for the damages, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He was charged with “three counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees and one count of depredation against property of the United States.”

He will also be banned from Yellowstone National Park and have a one-year supervised release.

Maddie Capron is a McClatchy Real-Time News Reporter focused on the outdoors and wildlife in the western U.S. She graduated from Ohio University and previously worked at CNN, the Idaho Statesman and Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism.

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