CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park rangers and Wyoming sheriff’s deputies seeking a murder suspect held a vacationing family at gunpoint without adequate cause for an hour, a lawsuit claims.
Brett and Genalyn Hemry, of Independence, Missouri, say they are victims of false arrest, excessive use of force and false imprisonment. Their lawsuit filed July 19 in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial.
Law enforcement officers at the time of the encounter in 2017 were seeking Gerald Michael Bullinger, a Utah man suspected of killing his wife, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s daughter in Idaho. Bullinger’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Investigators had found a car Bullinger was driving in Bridger-Teton National Forest outside Moran, near Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming, on July 12, 2017.
On July 20, 2017, two park rangers in separate vehicles closely followed the Hemrys and their minor child after they drove out of Yellowstone’s east gate, prompting Brett Hemry to pull off U.S. 14-16-20 about 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of the park, according to the lawsuit.
Park rangers allegedly had flagged the family’s car as one Bullinger may have been driving. The rangers allegedly pulled in front of the family’s SUV, blocking it, and held the family at gunpoint, ordering them to drop their car keys outside and keep their hands up.
More officers arrived, including Park County sheriff’s deputies, and officers then held the three family members at gunpoint in separate vehicles, the lawsuit alleges.
About an hour after being pulled over, officers allowed Brett Hemry to show his identification, told him they were seeking a murder suspect and showed him a photo of Bullinger, the lawsuit alleges.
Hemry “bore no resemblance” to Bullinger except for his light hair color, the lawsuit claims.
“The terrified family went on its way, without receiving an apology or additional explanation,” the lawsuit states.
Park County Sheriff Scott Steward declined to comment on the pending litigation. Yellowstone officials didn’t immediately return phone messages Tuesday seeking comment.