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United States Attorney
Central District of California

Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer
(213) 894-6947

February 17, 2005


            A man who resides east of Barstow has been arrested on federal charges of assaulting and impeding federal law enforcement officers when he confronted them with an assault rifle last weekend.

            Leo H. Spatziani, 62, who lives in the high desert near Newberry Springs and Yermo, was arrested yesterday by agents with the National Park Service. Spatziani, who was named in a criminal complaint filed this morning, is scheduled to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

            On February 12, federal law enforcement officers observed Spatziani and another man operating a trenching machine near a desert spring located in the Cut Spings area of the Mojave National Preserve. The area near the spring is documented as containing sensitive archeological and cultural resources. The two uniformed National Park Service Rangers contacted Spatziani and his friend to discuss their trenching activity. While one of the Rangers was photographing the scene, Spatziani removed a .30-caliber M-1 carbine from a vehicle. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Spatziani placed a magazine in the weapon and chambered a round. He then allegedly pointed the weapon at the Ranger taking the pictures, and he began to advance on the Ranger. Despite repeated commands to drop the weapon, Spatziani continued to advance with his weapon, which he had shouldered in the ready firing position. The threatened officer was forced to draw his weapon and take defensive cover behind a nearby cabin. During the ensuing stand-off, an eight-year-old child of Spatziani's friend was between Spatziani and the Ranger. In order to protect the child and everyone else at the scene, the two Rangers decided to de-escalate the situation by slowly withdrawing to their marked patrol vehicle and leaving the area.

            Spatziani is charged with assaulting, resisting, intimidating, and impeding federal law enforcement officers, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

            An criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

            The case against Spatziani is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

Release No. 05-033

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