News Release Date: July 26, 2018Today, Duane (DAK) Kees, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that he has declined to pursue federal charges against the two National Park Service (NPS) Rangers who were involved in the fatal shooting on August 20, 2017 of Jonathan Bolger, at Buffalo National River. Previously the Searcy County Prosecutor declined to prosecute the case and found that the evidence supports the reasonableness of the officer’s use of lethal force in this case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Searcy County Prosecutor, and the National Park Service all conducted comprehensive reviews of the incident due to the concurrent jurisdiction between the state and federal governments that exists over the property located within the Buffalo National River.
The incident occurred on Sunday, August 20, 2017, at approximately 1:34 a.m., when two NPS law enforcement rangers were conducting routine foot patrol of the Spring Creek Campground, in the Lower District of Buffalo National River. As they entered the campground, a white male, later identified as Bolger, 34, of Branson, Missouri, immediately confronted them. The rangers immediately identified themselves as law enforcement officers, and saw that Bolger was pointing what they believed was a semi-automatic handgun directly at them. The investigation has revealed that Bolger was armed with an Umarex XCP air pistol, which appears identical to a two-toned semi-automatic handgun, and does not have any identifying markers to show that it is an air pistol.
The rangers ordered Bolger to drop the weapon multiple times, but he refused. He continued verbally challenging the rangers and made a sudden threatening move. One of the rangers then shot him three times. The rangers, a civilian, and ambulance personnel from the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center provided lifesaving efforts to Bolger, but were unable to revive him. The Searcy County Coroner pronounced him dead at the scene.
The NPS Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team, a specially trained unit of special agents from around the country, conducted the investigation. The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigative Division and Searcy County Sheriff’s Department provided substantial investigative support at the scene of the incident, and assisted the NPS in the investigation. The rangers were found to have properly followed law and policy in this situation and were justified in their actions. The US Attorney’s and the Searcy County Prosecutor’s decisions close this case for the National Park Service.
Western District of Arkansas Release