The following was posted on the facebook page of Jerry Grubb, who identifies himself as the ranger who euthanized the bears that were responsible for the only documented fatal mauling in the Smokies in 2000. I am publishing the entirety of his post. https://www.facebook.com/SFW.hh.13/posts/1245289758872023
I have been asked why I have so much animosity towards the park service regarding this fire. I guess I should attempt to explain my position. This is quite lengthy for a Facebook read, but here goes. This incident is about 15 years old and happened in the Smokies while I was a Ranger there. I guess I am like Cash and trying to justify my actions that I thought at the time were exemplary without question. I endured much stress, humiliation and embarrassment while I was struggling to defend my reputation as a professional ranger against accusations made by the Park Service against me that resulted in me being forced to retire early. There has been no closure for me on this and I continue to be pissed when something as this fire disaster triggers my emotions.
A bear attack occurred in the Smokies in 1999 that resulted in the death of a local school teacher. I responded to the attack along with two other rangers. The attack occurred about 1 ½ miles from the road. One of the rangers was at Elkmont and a lot closer and he was the first to respond. I and another ranger began gathering rescue equipment. The first ranger arrived at the Goshen Prong Bridge where the bear attack occurred. On his arrival he began calling for more assistance and to bring a long gun which would have been a rifle or shotgun. We had left our cruisers at the ranger station and our rifles and shotguns were left behind. He then told us to get up there. I and the other ranger began running up the trail to the attack scene. While we were running, the first ranger on scene could not be contacted by radio after several tries by our dispatch. We assumed this ranger was consumed by helping the victim and not able to answer the radio. I took over the situation and called for all the park rangers and others to respond. The run was 1 ½ miles that took us 27 minutes to get to the scene. We were wearing our gun belts, radio, bullet proof vest and street shoes which was a burden, but the adrenalin overcame this aggravation. We continued running without any communication from the first ranger. I have to add this note because my partner would insist I intentionally left this out. I had just turned 50 and he was 35 and I outran him but I really think he stopped to tie his shoes.
As we ran up the trail people we met yelled at us to get there. When we arrived at the Goshen Prong Bridge, there were probably ½ dozen people standing along the trail looking out into the woods. I ran up and asked them where the ranger was and they pointed to him standing about 25-30 yards out in the woods with his arms crossed. I then asked where the bear was, and the individuals pointed directly in front of us. The side of the trail was grown over with brush and I could not see into the woods. I pulled my gun and busted through the brush at which time the woods opened up into an open canopy and I could see clearly the victim lying on her back and two bears hovering over her. I could also see the first ranger standing about 30 yards away. It was a surreal moment trying to digest what I was seeing with a ranger standing with his arms crossed while these bears were actually attacking a victim. It seemed like a long time, but was in fact only seconds, as I was running along a small trail towards the victim and the bears. I was able to get within about 12 feet of the bears and a small tree was blocking me from getting closer. The victim was lying on her back with the bigger of the two bears standing over her and was eating her face. The smaller bear was sitting immediately to her right on its back haunches. I wanted to kill both bears but I wanted them off of her regardless. I shot and killed both bears. End of story? Not hardly.
While this episode was going on at no time did the first ranger even draw his weapon or approach us as we were moving in to kill these bears. He had been on scene for a least 27 minutes and watched these bears eat the victim. According to the ex-husband, he had been throwing rocks and sticks at the bears keeping the bears off the victim while someone went to get help. He stated when the ranger arrived, the ranger then made him go to the trail and said the ranger did nothing while they all watched from the trail. The scene with this victim was horrifying at the least. This ranger made a statement later and said he thought the victim was already dead and was the reason he took no action and waited for a long gun. Was this to mean he was going to watch the bear eat the victim until she was unrecognizable?
I have worked with many victims in a wide range of incidents that included hundreds of deaths from lightning strikes to motor vehicle accidents and body recoveries, but this has stuck with me for many years. Had the incident been handled as it should have I am sure there would have been closure and I would have accepted what had happened.
There were many questions to be answered not related to the ranger that was grossly negligent in doing his job. The victim’s ex-husband was there, the victim was in a wooded area way off the trail and why were the bears doing what they were doing. I immediately did an investigation to determine if this unwitnessed death resulted in an act of human homicide or actually a bear attack. I am trained in tracking and I was able to track the bear and the victim’s path to where I thought the attack began. After I tracked the bear, another ranger arrived and he independently tracked the bear also. Soon after that a wildlife resource management agent arrived and he also tracked the bear. During this investigation, we also found tracks indicating where the second bear was in relation to the attack. Post mortem wounds on the victim also indicated the victim was still alive when the bear attacked her. It was without a doubt this was a bear attack that led to the killing of the victim.
The victim had a backpack, but was left further down the trail. I instructed the ranger (and I use the term very loosely), who watched this attack, to walk the victim’s ex-husband back to the trailhead and I was adamant he get the victim’s pack that contained valuable evidence.
It was getting dark and the victim and the bears were removed. I went back to headquarters to share my investigation with our criminal investigator and get the victim’s backpack. I was met in the hallway of the headquarters by my supervisor who then told me to “go home”. I explained to him I had a lot of work to do on this investigation and he replied to me “there’s not going to be an investigation”. He explained to me this was a wildlife incident and there was not going to be an investigation and again told to me to go home. I argued with him and explained this was an unwitnessed death and I needed to get the victim’s backpack that I felt had critical evidence in it. He then told me he had sent the backpack home with the relatives and had not checked it for any evidence. He became visibly upset and again told me to go home. Needless to say critical evidence and information was lost as there was no investigation until the next morning when the NPS started covering their ass.
I was all to hell and went home, unable to sleep and disgusted with what was happening. I arrived the next morning to find there was a news conference held on the front of lawn of headquarters where the NPS Superintendent and his cronies gave the news media a report of what happened. The NPS response was that the victim and her ex-husband were in the park and there was a bear incident, but “they did not know what happened” and the incident was under investigation. The NPS “lied” to the media and continued to give misleading information regarding the bear attack.
I am here to tell you we knew “exactly what had happened”. I was the one that shot and killed the bears and was on scene and the information was confirmed by several trained rangers. The whole bear attack has been covered up with the NPS feeding the people false and capricious statements. As far as the investigation, I was the investigator and at no time have I been questioned by their investigator who was just another ranger that was nowhere near the scene when it happened. This ranger investigated for 10 months before a final statement was released it was a confirmed bear attack. No further narrative was given due to the time the NPS allowed for the smoke to clear with public at which time the next focus was to get rid of me. An interesting note is the “investigating” ranger that took 10 months to investigate what all of us other rangers knew is now the “CHIEF RANGER” of the Smokies that has been promoted from a field ranger to the park’s CHIEF RANGER. He is one of the managers named in this fire fiasco regarding more false and misleading information and negligence. Just my observation, but it appears if you kiss the bottom, you will get to the top.
As for my personal situation, I was called in the office the morning after the news conference and accused of “stirring up shit”. It was at this very moment my park service career was compromised and I was forced into an early retirement. There is much more to this than I can put on this Facebook page. There are things that the backpack would have told us that has been kept secret and much more evidence that has been deleted from the report and until this day not been shared. The ranger that refused to do his job which was to protect the visitors of the park was promoted to a Supervisory Position in another park, the ranger that did the colluded investigation is now the CHIEF RANGER of the Smokies, and the assistant superintendent at the time was then promoted to a Superintendent at another park. The United States Attorney’s office in Knoxville refused to allow my supervisor to remain in a law enforcement position because he lied during an investigation. He was transferred to another job where he was promoted after his law enforcement commission was revoked when he should have been fired. I was forced to retire. I cannot share with you at this time the reason for all the collusion but is just more information than can be shared at this time.
This fire fiasco is nothing less than another bear attack except this time you have 14 victims that died, hundreds more injured and the devastation off the chart. We now have the same narrative being given by Cash and now is endorsed by his crony and so called Senator Alexander. Are promotions in order here??? The response given by the government militia, and written in the Board of Inquiry said that during the bear attack where the ranger refused to even draw his weapon “did a good job”. He did ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING but, was commended and promoted, while I was accused of putting people’s lives in danger when I fired my weapon and killed the bears. Rather than being commended for my actions, the Chief Ranger stated to the newspapers in a facetious remark that I charged in like “John Wayne”, placing people at risk before evaluating the situation, while maintaining the other ranger did a good job.
There are many more facts and details that have to be omitted as this story could be written as a book. I Am sure there will be many to view this story as fiction and question the facts as presented. That’s OK. Your city and county has just been burned to the ground because of complete negligence compounded by false and misleading information. If there was any remorse shown by these park service clowns, it would be different. It was the same with the bear mauling where there was no remorse and just everybody trying to cover their ass by creating bureaucratic manipulation and lying to the public. Next time you see Cash and his lips are moving, you now know what he is saying. Animosity is just a mild way of putting how I feel about the NPS.
Although it has been 15 years, the facts can still be corroborated and I am sure the case file has been destroyed by the NPS.