A Missoula man accused of using pepper spray on a woman and her dog while they were hiking in Pattee Canyon pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge Monday in Justice Court.
Ronald J. Pagel, 66, was released on his own recognizance without objection from the county attorney’s office.
His attorney, Collin Stephens, told Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech that Pagel has a “legitimate fear of dogs” when prosecutors demanded that Pagel not possess pepper spray as a condition of his release.
According to the affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jordan Kilby, Shenandoah Roath was hiking with her golden retriever in the recreation area on Oct. 26 when she heard a man tell her to call the dog.
Roath called to her dog, but the dog didn’t respond.
When the dog came within five feet of Pagel, he allegedly sprayed the dog in the face with pepper spray.
Roath said she was shocked and questioned Pagel, asking if he actually used pepper spray on her dog.
He said that he did in fact pepper-spray the dog and she threatened to report him.
But Pagel allegedly refused to give Roath any information. He then allegedly turned toward Roath and sprayed her in the face, while her dog rolled around in the dirt about 30 feet away.
According to the affidavit, Pagel then left Roath there as she yelled for help.
A few days later, Pagel went into the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and met with Detective Scott Newell.
“Pagel stated that he has had many bad encounters with dogs throughout his life and therefore carries pepper spray with him in case he is confronted with a dog,” the affidavit stated.
He said he was walking in the area when he saw a “big hairy” dog come running toward him too quickly, so he sprayed the pet.
He told Newell that he and Roath started arguing and the dog came up behind her. He said he started to spray the animal again when the woman pushed him backward.
He said that when he lost his footing, he stumbled back and accidentally pepper-sprayed Roath along the right side of her face and her right arm.
“Pagel said there were people around and he didn’t want to deal with them, so he left,” the affidavit stated.
As a condition of his release, Pagel is not to possess pepper spray.
Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.