Pollock Pines Man Sentenced for Axe Attack at Lassen Volcanic National Park

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 26, 2017 / comments

On Tuesday Nicholas Coberley was sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years of supervised release.  According to the Department of Justice prosecutors, 45-year-old Nicholas Coberley of Pollock Pines, attacked seasonal park ranger Chris Cruz during an incident on June 20, 2016.

The Park Ranger had been called to investigate reports of a man walking in the middle of the road and yelling loudly.

Coberley apparently jumped into the back of the ranger's truck and started hitting the passenger compartment with a firefighting tool.

He then smashed the back window with an axe, climbed into the passenger compartment and put the ranger in a chokehold. At that point Coberley swung an axe at the ranger's head while the truck was in motion.

The ranger was able to speak calmly with Coberley and defused the situation. Coberley returned to his home near the park's boundary and was later arrested.

Coberley, who was facing 20 years, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years of supervised release Tuesday.

“You were one swing away from killing this guy,” U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez told Coberley.

According to court documents, Coberley, 45, had been drinking at a friend’s house when they got into an argument and he wandered off into the park – drunk, barefoot and in the dark. 

When Cruz responded to campers’ complaints at the Warner Valley Campground and drove up on an obviously intoxicated man yelling for help, Coberley thought it was a cab. A few minutes later, Cruz was fighting for his life and saving two – “my life and his,” the ranger said in an interview after the sentencing.

The ranger told investigators he offered Coberley a ride in the bed of his truck, to get him away from the nearly full campground and the nearby and fully occupied Drakesbad Guest Ranch, which is about 6 miles southeast of Lassen Peak as the crow flies.

As Cruz drove off, Coberley apparently thought he was being kidnapped, his ex-girlfriend said in a letter to the court.

Cruz suffered a hand injury during the attack, park officials said.