Baltimore County Police have charged the park manager of Gunpowder Falls State Park with second-degree rape and second-degree assault, police announced Wednesday.
Michael Browning, 71, of Baldwin was arrested Tuesday and is being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.
Detectives from the Baltimore County Special Victims Unit believe Browning sexually assaulted a victim over a period of six months while he was employed by the Maryland Park Service, police said in a news release.
The victim told police she met Browning years prior when she was a teenager and attended a youth club that Browning’s wife ran. As an adult, the woman started working at Gunpowder State Park with Browning, who was a park ranger. He helped her move into a park residence in White Marsh, and they started a yearslong consensual relationship, police wrote in charging documents.
Now in her late 20s, the woman told police she tried to end their sexual relationship, but Browing, who had keys to her residence because he was a park manager, would arrive at her house with the intention of having sex. She told police Browing raped her 10 to 15 times over the course of their relationship but did not specify a date or time.
Gary Bernstein, Browning’s defense attorney, said on Thursday that Browning’s and the woman’s relationship was consensual and that he never forced himself on her. She and Browning recently spent time together, including having dinner at his house in May and going on a group hunting trip in Colorado in September, Bernstein said.
“He never forced her to engage in anything,” Bernstein said.
Browning has worked for the park service for 45 years and surrendered his gun after he was arrested, Bernstein said.
The state park Browning managed covers more than 18,000 acres across Harford and Baltimore Counties, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website. One of Maryland’s largest state parks, Gunpowder Falls State Park has more than 120 miles of multi-use trails and spots for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and swimming.
Gregg Bortz, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement that park service management is aware of “this investigation and arrest and are cooperating fully.” He declined to say many years Browning was employed with the Maryland Park Service or his rank as a park ranger.
Police are seeking other potential victims and additional information about this case. The Special Victims Unit can be reached at 410-887-2223.