Crime - Sacto 911

Man pleads guilty in ax attack on Lassen park ranger

Nicholas Martin Coberley, 44, was charged with three felony counts of assault on a federal employee with a deadly weapon and destruction of government property. He has pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced Jan. 17.
Nicholas Martin Coberley, 44, was charged with three felony counts of assault on a federal employee with a deadly weapon and destruction of government property. He has pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced Jan. 17. Plumas County Sheriff’s Office

Nicholas Martin Coberley, who attacked a national park ranger with a lethal firefighting tool, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Sacramento federal court.

As part of a written plea agreement, Coberley admitted to swinging a tool known as a Pulaski at the head of Chris Cruz while the ranger was driving his National Park Service pickup and desperately trying to fend off his attacker.

Coberley, 45, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 17 by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.

According to the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask for a sentence of two years and three months in prison.

Cruz approached Coberley – who appeared to be intoxicated and was acting erratically – on the night of June 20 in a rural area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Cruz was concerned that Coberley, who was on foot, was headed toward the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, a small lodge that was booked to capacity with visitors that night.

When Coberley hopped in the bed of his pickup, Cruz drove away from the lodge, hoping to meet with law enforcement officers he had already called.

Using two firefighting tools he found in the bed of the truck, Coberley wreaked havoc before Cruz was able to transfer him to the authorities. While the ranger drove through the dark, Coberley climbed onto the cab and beat the truck’s roof with a McLeod, a tool with a hoe-like blade on one side and heavy, sharp spikes on the other, and a long wooden handle. He then shattered the truck’s windshield with it.

Next, he picked up the Pulaski, a short-handled ax, and used it to smash out the cab’s back window. He then climbed into the rear passenger compartment and began choking Cruz. He swung the Pulaski at Cruz’s head, but the ranger blocked the blow, suffering a lacerated right hand. Cruz was able to wrest the Pulaski from Coberley and eventually calm him down.

The ranger drove to a house near the park’s boundary that Coberley said was his. Law enforcement officers, who were not far behind, arrested Coberley there.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189

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