Do police officers ever sympathize with someone who took the law into their own hands?
It seems like a lifetime ago but it has only been 30 years. I was doing research for my Master’s thesis. For my study, I needed a remote, high alpine meadow that had been minimally disturbed by humans. I found it in a very well known National Park in CA (I will not prthe name to protect all parties that are still living).I had been backpacking since high school and was very fit. I had been on many multi-week backcountry trips and visited many remote areas that had no trail access. I could use a map and compass to navigate to where ever I wanted to go. This was years before handheld GPS devices that I see backpackers carry.To get to the study site required a very long hike and I had to carry the research gear so that meant I had to carry a pack weighing around 100 pounds. The hike involved a 4,000-foot elevation gain over 10 miles which I could cover in 3 hours. Then another 8 miles of mountainous trail that I could cover in 2 hours and then another off-trail climb of 1,200 feet in less than a mile and a 1,400-foot descent on the other side and one more mile to my study site. That I would do in an hour and a half. I did not want to do the trip in 2 days, it would be a pain to stop, set up camp, then break it and start the next day. I did have a small base camp at the study site.The trail I used is very popular and passes some popular lakes for camping and fishing. It is also a popular access point for long trek hikers and connects to the Pacific Crest Trail. It is such a popular entry into the Wilderness that the trail is limited and half the permits can be reserved up to a year in advance and half are available the day of. Many times there is a long line and the permit quota is filled in under 20 minutes. In addition, there are many soloists, like me that enjoying going into the wilderness alone. We know the risks and understand that if we get into trouble we are on our own and nobody will rescue us. That is part of the adventure. It is freedom at its rawest and self-reliance without a safety net.One afternoon, I was getting near the point I would leave the trail to head over the ridge to my meadow. Here the trail ran through a meadow. Well off the trail was a nice camping spot in a wooded area at the edge of the meadow. It was near a spring that was feed from snowmelt from a glacier above. (I did get to cross over a small glacier on the trek over the ridge, nothing beats a natural snow-cone on a warm afternoon at 11,000 feet elevation while watching a bald eagle soaring overhead). People walking the trail would miss it because it was so far off. It was mostly used by the experienced and off-trail hikers. They spent the night here before going over the ridge, then heading into the vast trailess region to the north. To enter this, they just continued north of my meadow. If you wanted to keep your sanity, you stayed away from the meadow, it was home to millions of mosquitos. Research has its downside. While in the meadow, I had to wear protective clothing and netting to not be drained dry by mosquitos. For entertainment, I would expose one arm and count how many mosquitos I could kill in 5 minutes. I stopped counting after reaching 400 one time). This initial part of the trail was regularly patrolled by US Forest Service Rangers and National Park Service Rangers, mostly to make sure people had permits and were following all the rules about food storage (bears could be a problem) and camping off of meadows and away from water sources.I am heading towards this camping spot thinking about snow-cone time to urge myself on for 20 more minutes. I noticed a tent so I start to veer wide of it and then I heard a blood-curdling scream followed by crying and yells to stop, no and more. It was the voice of a woman. I took off at a trot towards the tent (as fast as I could go with a heavy pack). As I got closer I just knew someone was in real danger. Then I heard the male voice yelling words I will not repeat here. I lost it. If you read some of my other answers you will know why. It opened the floodgates to flashbacks of my shitty childhood and enduring repeated rapes and a gang rape. I acted without thinking.Sparing the details, in short order the rapist found himself being beaten by two people. His knife was way too small compared to mine and he lost it quickly. Because of my previous experiences I just avoid taking human life, it is not worth the nightmares if it can be avoided. I had rope for bear bagging food and would have been happy to tie him up and walk him out on a leash.Well, everyone reacts differently to being raped and this young lady took hold of his knife and it was not a pretty sight. I was not going to stop her. Once she calmed down, I pulled her out of the tent. I helped her wash up. She just sat there so I got my stove out, warmed up water and bathed her as best I could. Inside the tent was bloody, the perp was still breathing but he earned his prize. Many of her clothes were blood soaked. I did the best I could to find clean clothes and then gave her one of my shirts. I made dinner.About that time I spotted an NPS ranger hiking down the trail. So I got her attention and brought her over. I brought her up to speed, and by then the perp had passed. She set up her tent and got the young lady settled into her sleeping bag. I was afraid that I would have to hike out to give a report to explain what happened and face explaining how the perp ended up dead with his knife. I need to get a story that did not involve her losing it when he was already subdued. I knew the rage and he deserved it. How many young women had he done this to?I was relieved when the Ranger came to me and said people are so stupid, I warn them, they are warned when they get their permits, there are warning signs on the trails, and they still do not store their food properly. Then a bear takes their food when they are cooking dinner and they try to take it back. Never mess with a momma bear who has cubs.I got the message loud and clear.The next morning, the young lady was feeling better. The ranger took her away from the campsite and made breakfast. I salvaged her pack and cleaned it. I picked out the gear that she wanted to keep, which was most of it. I cleaned it up and packed it. The clothes she wanted I rinsed as best I could, (not many) and let them dry. The rest I placed in a garbage bag. I took the knife and bagged it.Then I sat with her as the ranger packed up her stuff. The ranger took off down the trail with the young lady. We had exchanged names and telephone numbers just in case. The ranger had a radio but it would only work when she was within 5 miles of the trailhead. It was to call for a ride. She would alert that they need to send a medical team.I then packed my stuff and went over the ridge. I had a nice clothes burning fire. The knife was in it. Then the knife disappeared into a boulder field.I did climb the ridge every few days to look down on the campsite. The tent was still there for several days. Then one midmorning day I heard a familiar sound, a Chinook helicopter High-tech Chinooks arrive in California - Vertical MagazineI knew about these because they were stationed in the city I lived in and I had been to plenty of airshows and had many stories about their use in high altitude search and rescue missions. So I dropped what I was doing and headed for the top of the ridge. When I saw it hovering over the meadow I had a good clue what it was there for.I came down the side to investigate. Some backpacker had discovered a ripped tent and a body inside. The campsite had been tossed by animals and the body looked like it had been gnawed on. The body looked like it had been there some time. A backpack had been found a 1/4 mile away. The helicopter was to extract the body in a body bag, it was too fragile to take out on horseback. It would be dropped off at the local heliport then driven to the coroner’s office.I was questioned about had I seen anything and what I was doing by a Park Service Ranger. I saw nothing. We both knew the right answer but were playing the game for all else involved. They were confident they knew who the person was, a wallet with ID was found in the pack. I gave her my ID so she had my information just in case she had further questions. She was sure the cause of death would be hard to determine but with the food wrappers in the tent and strewn about and no bear-proof bear storage container or signs of proper food hanging around they think he might have tried to sleep with food in the tent and when the bear tried to get it he fought back and lost.I then excused myself to go back to my study. She had one more thing to ask and took me aside. All is good and gave me a number to call when I came back to civilization.About 5 days later I called that number and was surprised to hear a familiar voice. She was back home after being released from the hospital. She needed another favor. Her car was at the trailhead. She lived in a town 30 miles south of where I lived. Upon her release, she had a friend drive her home. Her key was left with the ranger at the station. I got the key, drove her car to her. She drove me home and she took my wife and me out to dinner and we had a nice time.Because the young woman was still processing all that had happened, we just said my car had engine trouble. We had met on the trail out and she had badly sprained her ankle so I carried my stuff out, and then came back the next day to get her pack to carry her stuff out and help her walk out. My car was having issues so I dropped it off at the garage in town. She could not drive with her sprained ankle. I drove her to the ER, she was treated. Then we took motel rooms because it was getting late. Then I drove her home that morning. This is one time when not being truthful protected the confidentiality of a person who wanted it protected. And before anyone thoughts go there, no, many rape victims do not want to nor desire to thank their rescuer with sex. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and my rage was triggered. I am not proud of how everything ended. I wish it had gone the way I wanted but he got what he deserved.The next week, when I had to return, the young lady drove me back. We kept in touch for a while then she finished college and went off to live her life. She did get counseling. I never asked for details.I did get a further update from the ranger. The official conclusion was the body had been too decomposed and had too much animal feeding damage to determine a cause of death so his official cause of death was undetermined. Over the last 2 years, there had been reports from women hiking alone or in groups of two of being raped by a man with a knife. He got the drop on them when they were in their tent, often when changing clothes or getting ready for bed. The last report came 3 weeks before the discovery of the body. The body was identified and matched that of the ID in the wallet. The guy was 20 and lived in the Central Valley. As a juvenile he had two arrests for raping teen girls and a couple more for sexual assault. He served a year in a juvenile facility and had no arrests since.I know from statistics and my experience, many rapists are not caught or if caught go unpunished. I had to endure being told that I should have enjoyed it. It was not fun and caused great emotional pain that still exists 45 years later. So maybe his death saved a few young women from enduring the emotional trauma. I know my conscience is clear. I am sure the ranger is not losing sleep over it. I would guess that the young lady that endured the trauma has emotional pain but it is not over his death.If you are going to do terrible harm to someone far from help then you have to expect to suffer the consequences when people stop it. The police are not around and neither are jails or medical services. In those situations, it is very easy to cover the real cause of death and save a whole lot of paperwork and eating time answering stupid questions.