Teaching Citizens to Heel: Park Ranger Reportedly Tasers Man Walking Small Dogs Off Leash

In California’s Rancho Corral de Tierra (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area), a National Park Service Ranger reportedly shot Gary Hesterberg in the back with a taser after he walked away during a confrontation over walking his two lapdogs off leash. He was then arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash and knowingly providing false information. The park service spokesperson reportedly said it is all part of teaching citizens about the new leash law in the area . . . or teaching Hesterberg to heel.

Witnesses objected that the force was excessive and said that the ranger refused to respond when confronted over the necessity or reason for the arrest.

The ranger says that Hesterberg gave a false name and then began to walk away from the ranger. Howard Levitt, a spokesman for the park service, added that he did not have identification on him. Levitt explained that the ranger “pursued him a little bit and she did deploy her [electric-shock weapon] . . . That did stop him.”

It is common for people to walk their dogs off leash in the area, but when the area was made part of the national park system in December, a new leash rule was imposed.

The article below says that Levitt explained that “the ranger was trying to educate residents of the rule.” Wow, if true, that is quite a lesson plan. Stop, explain, tase, and repeat.

The account of these witnesses not only raises serious questions of excessive force but also excessive charges that followed the alleged abuse. We have seen other cases of alleged abuse where citizens have been hit with an array of charges. This creates significant pressure for the accused to plead or remain silent. I do not see why a taser would be needed on such a minor offense.

Source: SF Gate

205 thoughts on “Teaching Citizens to Heel: Park Ranger Reportedly Tasers Man Walking Small Dogs Off Leash

  1. The latest I picked up from the Half Moon Bay Review is that in response to the ranger he had immediately leashed his dogs. That she kept him there for 20 minutes without explanation.

    I am not a great supporter of off leash dogs because I worry about the birds, the rabbits, and small mammals, however even given that, what they did to him was stunningly stupid.

    Also I am skeptical of people crying about the birds and the rabbits when the latest fad in parks is to pour concrete over it so that speed bikers can pedal pedal pedal and be a danger not only to birds, rabbits and small mammals but to humans, (adults, children and the elderly), as well.

  2. Gene said:

    “Walking away is the antithesis of being a threat.”

    What more can be said; especially given that the infraction was two small dogs off leash.

  3. “There have been a large number of Taser deaths. If the number quoted above is correct, 351 deaths in a seven year period is hardly reflective of a non-lethal weapon.”

    There have not been a large number of “Taser deaths.” Some people take the Amnesty International report at face value, but it’s deceptive, and the same goes for the Wikipedia entry. Let me explain what I said in a different way: “Everyone who is shot with a Taser will die.” That makes the Taser sound lethal doesn’t it? Well, it is also true that everyone who eats a banana will die. Ban the banana! Also, everyone who drinks milk in the state of Nebraska will die too. What’s in that Nebraska milk, anyway? The reason we can say all that stuff is because everyone who was ever born is going to die. There are many events that happen along the way that can’t be blamed for the person’s death, though. Amnesty International is gleefully pulling the wool over people’s eyes when they relate the story of 1) guy gets shot with Taser, 2) guy dies later, so therefore 3) Taser must have caused the death. The question we need to be asking is not how many people die after being shot with a Taser, because the answer to that question is “everyone does.” The right question is how many people die BECAUSE OF being shot with a Taser. It looks like the answer to that question is “a very small minority, if any.”

    Back in 1995, the ACLU made the accusation that the OC spray (pepper spray) the police were using was causing people to die. This ridiculous allegation was investigated and discovered to be a fabrication. The same result shows up when you examine people who died soon after being shot with a Taser. This report talls the Taser a Conducted Energy Device (CED):

    “Kornblum and Reddy (1991) examined 16 CED-related deaths and reported that in all cases the subjects were behaving in a bizarre or unusual manner and that13 were under the influence of drugs (cocaine, PCP or amphetamine). According to their analysis, death was caused by drug overdoses in 11 cases (68.8%), gunshot wounds in three, an undetermined cause in one, and heart disease plus CED shock on one case. They concluded that the CEDs in and of themselves did not cause death, though a CED exposure may have contributed to one death (Note, however, that in addition to heart disease, this subject had lethal levels of PCP in his system).”

    “In a review of 37 CED-related deaths, Strote and Hutson (2006) found that autopsy reports indicated 20 (54.1%) of the subjects had cardiovascular disease, 29 (78.4%) were under the influence of illegal drugs (primarily stimulants), 28 (75.7%) were given a diagnoses of excited delirium, and 29 (78.4%) of the subjects were restrained by police in some manner. Medical examiners reported CEDs were a possible cause of death in six cases (16.2%) and were a contributory cause in four (10.8%). The authors concluded that a common factor in the deaths was extreme agitation, often accompanied by stimulant drug use and/or preexisting heart disease. Importantly, they note that fatal encounters in which CEDs are used involve subjects already at risk for sudden death from other causes.”

    http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/231176.pdf

    So the normal healthy guy out walking his dogs in the park isn’t going to die when the cop hits him with the Taser probes. I know this firsthand, because I got to take a ride with Mr. Taser too. Taser International headquarters is just a few miles from my house, and I volunteered to be in their research program. They put me on my back on a wrestling mat and hooked me up to the wires, then hit me with the voltage from their new (at the time) shotgun round. The current was traveling between my left shoulder and my left hip, and it was very effective at immobilizing me. They kept it on for 15 seconds rather than the normal 5 seconds, but as soon as they turned it off I was able to sit up and stand up with no ill effects other than a slight muscle fatigue. I thought it would be something like the shock treatment in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but it wasn’t even close.

    The report also talks about why the Taser is a good thing in terms of preventing injuries. When the suspect isn’t complying with the officer’s commands, and the officer has to lay his hands on the suspect, usually one or both of them is going to get hurt. It could be a career-ending injury for the officer or a litigation-worthy injury for the suspect. Also, the officer has to get really close to the suspect to grab him, and if the suspect has any special skills like martial arts training, he could end up with the officer’s gun in his hand. If the two are evenly matched or the suspect is stronger, during a long fight there will come a time when the exhausted officer realizes he has lost the fight and is at the mercy of the suspect, and the only defense he has left is deadly force – his firearm. The Taser fills the gap between pepper spray and a hollow point pistol round. It’s the closest thing we have to a Star Trek phaser set on stun. The ranger was right to use her Taser in this situation, and I hope the Park Service backs her up.

  4. Let’s ask the question how many people don’t die after being shot with a handgun while we’re at it. Also revisit the meaning of the word “lethal”. Just because less people die from a CED than from a handgun does not change that people died from being tasered. You can’t make up your own definitions, Hal. “Less lethal”, “lethal” and “non-lethal” don’t mean the same thing. A lower probability of death is simply that, but an instrument that causes death is lethal by definition.

    From your cite: “While the above review suggests CEDs are relatively safe when used on healthy at-rest and physiologically stressed subjects, medical researchers caution that CEDs are not risk free (National Institute of Justice, 2008; Vilke & Chan, 2007). Strote & Hutson (2008), for example, point out that CEDs may cause physiologic and metabolic changes that are clinically insignificant in healthy individuals but that could be harmful or even life-threatening in at-risk populations (e.g., obese subjects with heart disease and/or intoxicated on drugs who struggle with police). Additional concerns have been raised regarding secondary injuries and deaths associated with CED exposure. For instance, there have been at least six deaths due to head injuries suffered during falls following CED exposure (Kroll, Calkins, Luceri, Graham, & Heegaard, 2008a).” [emphasis added]

    Risk is risk and tortfeasors take their victims as they find them.

    I’m glad you think an officer is showing good judgement in tasering someone after being informed that person has a heart condition. I also think your criteria for good judgment and mine must be substantially different. To me, violence over a code violation and the risk of incurring legal liability just doesn’t pass muster as good judgement in a situation where there was no indication of imminent harm to anybody. The situation could have and should have been resolved with nothing more dangerous than words.

  5. According to the reports:

    As he lay on the ground on his back and incapable of moving, she was yelling at him to turn over.

    When he could speak while still lying on the ground after being tased he was shouting to passers-by, asking someone to take his dogs home. His first thought was for the well being of his little dogs.

    He has a lawyer who told him not to speak about it.

  6. One of the two little dogs was off leash, a 13 pound dog that he then leashed. There is a good summary on tasars and on park rangers. on the left hand side of the page at
    http://www.hmbreview.com/news/stun-gun-sparks-dog-owner-outrage-against-ggnra/article_02b264dc-4b86-11e1-b619-0019bb2963f4.html?success=1#comment-3a40857c-4b91-11e1-9afe-9f8e11f31311

    What is written at that site is that basically the policy is that everything is at the rangers discretion and judgment, given the situation.

    Referring to other cases in the US regarding tasers, for travelling 12 miles over the speed limit, a police officer in Seattle Washington tased a pregnant woman. The Appeals court ruled that that officer went too far.That was the Federal 9’th Circuit Court of Appeals.

  7. A commenter pointed me to this article: “GGNRA ranger subject of earlier complaint” http://www.hmbreview.com/news/ggnra-ranger-subject-of-earlier-complaint/article_6f4fa7bc-4d57-11e1-8163-0019bb2963f4.html
    “The ranger has been identified by witnesses in both instances as Sarah Cavallaro, and both instances concerned people walking dogs off-leash” in California.
    A man and his wife were walking two springer spaniels.The man complained and felt his complaint fell on deaf ears.
    (There are many people in the US with the same last name and there are several of them with the first name of Sarah in the US, and the humor of it is that one in NYC is a dog lover who wrote a humorous book about dogs “Dogs Have Angels too”.)
    Another commenter gave a telephone number to call to give feedback to the GGNRA: 415-561-4720. (Just passing on the number given.)

  8. It turns out rangers have a whole range of weapons:
    “The proper use of electroshock weapons is left up to each individual ranger. The same is true for all the ranger’s other weapons, including the baton, pepper spray and handgun, said Howard Levitt, GGNRA spokesman.”
    from the Half Moon Bay Review : Mark Noack, writer.

    Also, stun guns can ignite flammable liquids, and possibly flammable material.

    Here is a blurb on the 9’th Court opinions on the use of tasers – sad. In one, in a domestic dispute case, the wife “said something about the need to defuse the situation. The officer responded by tasing” her. They held that the officers had overstepped, but gave them immunity. http://volokh.com/2011/10/17/tasers-and-the-fourth-amendment-now-headed-to-the-supreme-court/ “En Banc Ninth Circuit on When Using a Taser to Subdue A Suspect Counts as “Excessive Force” Under the Fourth Amendment” by Orin Kerr

    Actually I think leaving it to the discretion of the officer is the best thing, but the caveat is that the officer has to have good judgment. Having an officer make stupid decisions is what leads to policies that are bad in the long run for the safety of the public, the safety of the officers, and for the company that makes tasers.

    ———————-

    BTW, talking about overreach by the government “Amendments to FERPA regulations (under the now misnomer Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act ) effective January 8, 2009, and affected by the Patriot Act, and No Child Left Behind, add “biometric record” as a personal identifier. Examples of biometric records include fingerprints, retina and iris patterns, voice prints, DNA sequences, facial characteristics and handwriting. ” as part of student records, k-12 plus colleges and universities; with some good pointers for parents and students. https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs29-education.htm
    In case you don’t know what that means, it means the government is setting the stage for a national DNA bank of records on citizens, who have not committed crimes. They can collect your child’s DNA in kindergarten. In case any crimes are committed during his lifetime they could have computers searching the records for a match. Law enforcement and grand juries can have access to the records with subpoenas.DNA is not equal to 100% clarity as you might imagine. The security of these records, DNA, medical, psychiatric,opinions by teachers, grades, campus security records, will be as secure as what? sealed divorce papers, splashed across newspapers? Life in America is getting very sci-fi’ish.

  9. Under your definitions, Gene, anything can be called “lethal.” Peanut butter is lethal (if you’re allergic). Water is lethal (if you’re surrounded by it without an air supply). Even air is lethal (at high temperature). It is engaging in wordplay to call the Taser a “lethal weapon” when it has no lasting ill effects on all but a tiny minority of suspects. That’s why it is classified as a “less than lethal” weapon for the purposes of the Use of Force Continuum.

    “The situation could have and should have been resolved with nothing more dangerous than words.”

    That was tried and it failed. She told him not to leave several times, but he tried to leave anyway. Initially, the leash law violation was the Probable Cause to stop him and speak to him, At the point where he gave her the fake name, his status changed from an innocent dog walker to a suspect under detention, and he was no longer free to go. At that point the leash violation was simply the precursor, and it had nothing at all to do with the deployment of the Taser. So it would be helpful if people would stop saying that she tased him for having his dog off leash.

    It will be interesting to see what happpens with Mr. Hesterberg. He doesn’t look very happy in his booking photo, but also he doesn’t look like a frail heart patient about to expire. Apparently his ride with Mr. Taser wasn’t lethal, and I suspect that his status as a “heart patient” was just another lie.

    http://www.wtsp.com/news/article/235759/58/Park-ranger-tases-man-walking-dogs-off-leash

  10. It’s not my definition, Hal. It’s what the word lethal means.

    “That was tried and it failed.” And why did it fail? Because Park Ranger My Penis Is Bigger Than Yours was trying to detain a citizen without explanation. It failed because . . . she didn’t have proper training on how to handle the situation.

    Also, I didn’t say she tased him for having the dog off the leash. I said she tased him because she thought she was disrespected, didn’t know how to handle the situation and overreacted.

  11. When people wrote about their experiences with Ranger Sarah Cavallaro, and off-leash dogs, they said they told her to please stop talking to me and treating me like a criminal, and her response was “You are a criminal.” For those of you who do not understand why the rest of us are upset, think of a continuum of conduct from zero to 100. At zero the human is acting like an angel. At 100 the human is doing first degree premeditated murders and more serious felonies. In between zero and 100 are infractions, rules being broken, misdemeanors, minor felonies, and major felonies. Ms Cavallaro sees all actions by humans as in the 100% category and reacts in that way, which is why she was willing to tase an older man in the back who had told her he had a heart condition for having one out of two12 lb dogs off leash in a national park, and he had leashed the second dog when she mentioned it. She is operating from a level of hostility and self-righteousness that we in Western civilization are unaccustomed to seeing. She shares the attitude of the male Taliban in Afghanistan who beat up a woman for showing an ankle as they walk under burkas. When you give a 75% response to a level 8 infraction, you are unfit for your job.It is called being trigger happy. It builds up resentment among the people. It is counter productive. She is mainly protected by living in a very civilized prosperous part of the USA which in itself is prosperous in contrast to the world. In another part of the world, she could have started a gang war and suffered the consequences. The whole attitude of “In my perception, I’ve been dissed and therefore I am entitled to do anything” is a gang attitude. It is why people get killed for wearing a red jersey, or for having glanced in someone’s direction and glanced away.

    Yes he gave a false name. He didn’t have ID which most people don’t have in a state or national park. It is a little white lie. One does not have to make the leap that he is a murderer planning to disappear into the depths of nature. He did not have a 50 pound backpack filled with food and water and a tent. He had little dogs with him. It is not summertime. The temperatures get cold at night in late Jan. He was not a strapping young man of 20. Polly Klaas had not just been kidnapped by a man with salt and pepper hair.There was not an all points bulletin for an older man with salt and pepper hair. He may have been trying to avoid the financial fine. Government is getting more and more into charging fees and fining for anything they can think of, like the federal attempt to charge for surfing in Monterey off a specific federal place. It appears nothing went through Sarah’s alleged mind, other than “I’ve been dissed, and this is a criminal.” We have an animal mind, and we have the mind of the advanced human being. She has gotten into the habit of operating from her animal mind. She thinks like an alligator. She has not practiced using her mind to control her animal brain. This is not a person who should have weapons available to her. People who know her probably know to avoid her. But here we have the public who doesn’t know her. She is not wearing some sort of vest, like a black and yellow striped one, to announce “high alert, this is a dangerous, crazy woman.” In nature, dangerous animals usually have the coloring of stripes to send the signal of danger, like wasps, and poisonous snakes. After booking Gary, they released him. Boy he sure sounds like a dangerous criminal – not.

    On traffic lights we have a green light, we have a yellow light, we have a blinking red light, we have a red light. She operates on red light alert only. She is explosive. She is like a bomb that is ticking that is getting down to the last 5 seconds before explosion. She is like the air raid siren going off that bombs are about to fall.

    She is a woman.Maybe she has children. If so, I feel badly that children have to be raised with a woman like this.

    I personally try to avoid people who I have determined are crazy and dangerous. She falls into that category. I think Gary decided that too. For those of you who are sympathetic to Sarah and say you would do the same thing in her shoes, I don’t trust you either, and don’t want to see you with a gun nor a taser nor pepper spray. I don’t even want to see you behind the wheel of a car. For those of you who don’t think much of this story, please note that it got picked up nationally. There is a reason stories get picked up nationally. That is because it is not business as usual. If Sarah’s boss does not get that message, we should make sure he does get it.

    Sarah also does not understand that her salary is being paid for by taxpaying citizens, like Gary.

    I hope the majority of Americans agree with me. Since we live in the US in 2012 and not in the part of Afghanistan that is run by the authoritarian Taliban we are not accustomed to being treated like this. If we want to keep the US like the US we know,we have to object when someone acts macho behind a badge like this. We do not yet live in a police state, and we need to be invested in keeping it that way. The US is special. Let’s keep it that way. The citizens have to continue to act civilly and and to raise children to act civilly, and the authorities have to control the impulse to authoritarianism. Arrogance and pomposity are weaknesses that need to be combated within an individual.

    In the future give your real name and number and address. Rangers didn’t use to have cellular phones that they could call and be in contact with a big computer and other officers and now they do, so the citizenry has to adapt.
    I also did not know that park rangers carried deadly force, like guns with license to use them. I hope that people in control of training and certification are aware of this and have adjusted. Perhaps the weeding out process for hiring has to be closer to that used by the police. Both the police and the army reject people who do not pass psychological tests.

    Someone who is wacked out is out of wack, which means “out of order, alignment, not in proper condition”. Her name is Sarah.

    The parks are supposed to be a cheap, inexpensive, low key, way to destress and get away from the stress and rush of cars and crowds and computers especially in a bad economy. When I lived in San Francisco, I walked the trail at GGNRA Tennessee Valley Trail in the Marin headlands several times each weekend and loved it.

    People in state/national parks rarely encounter a wild animal. Now Sarah’s contribution is that people have to be more afraid of the park ranger than of wild animals.

  12. Gary Hesterberg is lucky that Ranger Cavallaro did not shoot him dead with a firearm. Comply or Die seems to be the Motto of the NPS.

    I too am a VICTIM OF NPS Ranger Misconduct. I am disabled for life as a result. There are many others whom the Rangers have needlessly injured. I have boxes of evidence of their malfeasance and have detailed court and other records, CHP pursuit, and an audio recording that is a real eye opener where they clearly abuse their legal authority an endangerd hundreds of citizens.

    NPS Rangers think they are Federal Secret Police that answer to no one. They even have the local Law Enforcement Agencies Believing this. NPS Rangers seemingly Comply or Die Policy is very active. More then one individual has been killed trying to leave the scene of petty infractions. Josh Updegraff’s Mother can attest to one such incident: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_07173e8a-b096-11df-a8bb-0017a4a78c22.html

    Richard Greenberg is in prison because he parked a car in Whiskeytown National Park where people do not normally park, but there was no sign to “keep out”. The Whiskeytown Rangers got overly aggressive and initiated an illegal pursuit, breaking several State and Federal Laws. There was no probable cause, and nowhere close to anything requiring that level of use of force on him or endangering the public with a high speed pursuit on a cold, rainy day. I have all of the reports and court papers on this case.

    In my case, I was denied medical attention, my truck was stolen and my girlfriend kidnapped by a park ranger named Gary Panich. To cover this up, Ranger Mike Martin made up lies, told them to other agency personnel as well an insurance adjusters, my finance company and my Attorney. He then had the local police storm my house, terrorizing my family, and arrested me (for a boating accident). I was incarcerated without a charge for several months. This happened in 2003 because of a boating accident where I was tested and proved that I was not under the influence of anything.

    Recently, an Investigator out of the Bay area, Jeff Wasserman, (Cell phone number 415-559-834) was appointed by NPS Director Jon Jarvis to look into the Greenberg case as well as mine. As of this writing, he has not offered any relief to Greenberg or myself, nor has he disciplined the Park Rangers involved. He had the opportunity to correct the internal policies of Park Rangers who abuse their limited authority and to prevent things like tasing someone for minor infractions like having a dog off a leash. Just like Ranger Cavallaro did. I have not heard any news reports stating Ranger Cavallaro had a ticket book or even wrote a ticket. When ranger Cavallaro detained Hesterberg, it was an arrest. She should have advised Hesterberg of this or whatever her intentions were. But again, she, like other NPS Rangers, act like Secret Police and feel they can detain anyone without explanation or accountability.

    Jeff Wasserman talked a good game about Greenberg’s case and mine, but I have not seen any results besides being accused of intentionally driving my new boat (that I loved dearly and worked hard to obtain) into a pole. His alleged “internal investigation” should have produced immediate changes to NPS Law Enforcement Policy. I have included his cell phone number so you can call him and tell him how you feel about Blatant and Obvious misconduct by National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers.

    To be fair, non-law enforcement park rangers are really cool people. Something happens when they are given guns and virtually No Law Enforcement Training like all other agencies must complete, to become Professional Peace Officers.

    National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers are normally required to Carry a 1 or 2 Million Dollar Professional Liability Insurance Policy (paid mostly by your tax dollars). I encourage Hesterberg or any of the witnesses who were affected by this appalling event to Sue Ranger Sarah Cavallaro in Federal Court as an individual under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and pursuant to the decision in Bivins v. Six Unknown Agents for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 338 (1971) for damages, actual and punitive.

    Had I done this to another citizen the same way the Rangers did to me, I would be in prison for a long, long time. The Federal Courts are the answer to agencies that have unconstitutional policies and practices and refuse to correct or even acknowledge them.
    I expect my door will be kicked in for writing this and more false charges filed against me. I really don’t care because I live in poverty and can longer perform a job because of my injuries. My hope is that my message gets out there so these things will not ever happen again to another citizen.

    My email address is jnickerson530@gmail.com. Contact me if you want to see court documents, Ranger Reports, affidavits or the Greenberg audio pursuit file emailed back. I welcome any Attorneys or News Media that would assist me in suing the park rangers for my or the Greenberg incidents or to perform an in depth investigation into NPS misconduct. I’ve often wonder why NPS Rangers become Law Enforcement Agents instead of Peace Officers, and by their actions it is my opinion they would probably fail the psych evaluation for real Peace Officer type Agencies.

    Thank you for your time…

  13. Donereallybad,
    My condolences. You didn’t say what state you are in or how long ago this happened. The Statute of Limitations has probably run out for you because the government makes it very short when suing them. Even in cases where they find wrongdoing by the officers, they still give immunity to the officers, it seems. I suggest that you send your posting to Congressperson Jackie Speier who is looking into the training and certification of rangers. She represents San Mateo County in Washington DC. The people in San Mateo are plenty upset and so is Rep Jackie Speier. Gary Hesterberg appears to be in Facebook. You can send him a message. He doesn’t respond because an article said his attorney told him not to say anything. Maybe he can use your files to establish a pattern of misconduct by the NPS and non-responsiveness to complaints.

  14. The man was tased not because he had his dogs off-leash but because he refused to comply with a lawful order. As for the use of force the standard for a police officer is reasonable force to gain compliance. If the man was not doing what the officer(ranger) asked him to do to the officer would have had to use force to get him to comply especially if the man is walking away from the officer.
    I do not expect a female ranger to get in a physical confrontation with a larger male to do her job and gain compliance. I expect the man to get his ass zapped or the officer to use OC spray and/or a baton on him until he complies with orders from law enforcement.
    In the grand scheme of things if the man is refusing to comply with orders the taser saved everyone from walking (or not walking) away with a lot more injuries that would have taken a lot longer to heal.
    Today’s lesson: If a law enforcement officer tells you to do something you better do it or they will have to find a way to make you do it and you probably don’t want that.

    • Tasers are being misused by law enforcements officials throughout the country. Hundreds of deaths are attributed to their use. There are only selective circumstance in which this electronic weapon should be used and unfortunately this is one more case of misuse. Mark Davis MD, author of Demons of Democracy

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