A sign at the entrance to Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles on Ediz Hook is shown Wednesday after it had been set afire. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A sign at the entrance to Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles on Ediz Hook is shown Wednesday after it had been set afire. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Hate crime and arson suspected

Port Angeles deputy police chief: Could have been prevented

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man was arrested Wednesday for an alleged hate crime, suspected arson and other offenses after an early-morning pursuit that officers ended with a stun gun, police said.

Samuel Elliot Ketchum, 39, allegedly used a liquid accelerant to set fire to the entrance sign at Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles and threatened to kill a Black man while using the N-word, said Jason Viada, Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police.

“He didn’t just make the statements once, but it was multiple similar hateful statements,” Viada said in a Wednesday interview.

Police were dispatched to the fire at the Coast Guard entrance gate at about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Witnesses told police that Ketchum made statements about killing people based on their race and nearly crashed a pickup into a car driven by a Black man who had come out of a restroom. Ketchum was holding a bottle of vodka when police arrived.

Viada said he did not know whether Ketchum knew the victim of the alleged hate crime.

“They had to move their car out of the way quickly to avoid a collision,” Viada said.

“The suspect kept going toward the victim saying he was ‘going to kill — a word that we don’t use.’ ”

Viada said there was “absolutely no question” that the allegations support a hate crime under state law.

After Ketchum fled, Officers T.J. Mueller and Dan Morse used spike strips to stop the vehicle he was driving near High Tide Seafoods on Marine Drive.

“They had a brief struggle and a Taser deployment and were able to get him into custody,” Viada said Wednesday.

Later Wednesday, police discovered what appeared to be two improvised explosive devices in large glass bottles, also known as Molotov cocktails, with a gallon of accelerant in the cab of Ketchum’s truck.

“I am not sure what else he had planned, but it looks like he had the means to carry out more destructive plans,” Viada said.

Ketchum is scheduled to make a preliminary appearance in Clallam County Superior Court at 1 p.m. today.

He had a court hearing Wednesday on a prior case that resulted in a felony bench warrant. The warrant was issued when Ketchum allegedly failed to surrender his weapons.

Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson indicated that she was prepared to release Ketchum on his personal recognizance Wednesday.

“You let me out, I’m going to kill people,” Ketchum told the judge.

“That’s my job. You guys released intelligence frequencies all over the country.”

Ketchum repeatedly stated that he was subject to “2½ years in Spokane.”

“All you guys need is a prison transport, you idiots,” Ketchum said in court Wednesday.

“I’ll interrupt until you acknowledge 2½ years in Spokane County.”

Erickson imposed a $5,000 bail on the prior case.

Port Angeles police responded to a complaint of Ketchum’s alleged erratic driving on Ediz Hook in the early morning hours of Aug. 4, Viada said.

Ketchum fled in his vehicle. Police discontinued their pursuit out of concerns related to police reform legislation that recently took effect, Viada said.

House Bill 1310, which set use-of-force parameters, has been criticized by local law enforcement leaders.

“In my opinion, there’s a direct link between the occurrence of this incident and the new laws that limit what the police can do,” Viada said.

“This is just a really good example of a serious incident from last night that probably would have been prevented before this legislation went into effect,” Viada added.

“I get that not everybody’s going to agree with what I just said, but I’m telling you what I really think.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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