FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A California man made an initial appearance in federal court here after a Friday incident at Grand Canyon National Park in which he is accused of punching, biting and screaming at visitors as he preached a religious message.
According to court documents, David B. Chimel, 41, of Oceano, Calif., is accused of fighting with tourists Friday near the El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Aspey said Chimel told a judge here Monday that it was the first time he physically confronted people to get them to listen to his message.
On Friday, park authorities went to the hotel on a report of a fight and found a group of people holding a man, later identified as Chimel, on the ground in the middle of a road.
Members of one family told authorities that they watched as Chimel chased a car and yelled that those inside it would be “destroyed.”
The family told authorities that Chimel then approached their group. They warned him to stay away but he continued to approach and then displayed two knives, before dropping them.
According to a police report, Chimel then punched one family member and was subdued by three others until police arrived.
While three family members held Chimel down, two said they were bitten by him.
The pair received first aid for the bites, which had broken the skin.
Visitors also had previously complained to hotel employees because Chimel was sitting outside singing “Just a Gigolo” and reading aloud from a small Bible, before approaching them.
Aspey said that a preliminary hearing has been set for Thursday to determine if there is probable cause for Chimel’s case to continue to trial.
“Based on the government’s concern for the public’s and the defendant’s well-being, he has been ordered held until Thursday’s hearing,” Aspey said.
Aspey said the crime with which Chimel is being charged, disorderly conduct, is a petty offense that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
People accused of the crime are usually ticketed and released, but they may be arrested, depending on the circumstances, Aspey added.