Man sentenced to probation after park standoff

Agrees to pay restitution, with amount to be determined later

TACOMA — A Port Angeles man was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to three years of probation for interfering with a federal communications system during an armed stand-off in Olympic National Park.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan noted that Caleb Jesse Chapman, 42, had spent 80 days in federal detention, and could face additional prison time if he does not comply with all the conditions of his probation, according to a press release form the U.S Attorney’s Office.

Chapman pleaded guilty to interfering with a government communication system in July.

His actions between Aug. 29-31 resulted in the evacuation and closure of a popular section of Olympic National Park, according to the release.

“Mr. Chapman’s conduct put many people at risk and spread fear in the community,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.

” When he disabled the communications system for the eastern section of the park, he disrupted the ability of park staff to call for help while running chain saws to clear trails, hiking off trail to monitor endangered animals, or checking on hikers in rugged terrain.

“He has spent time since his arrest working to be drug free,” Brown noted.

“We wish him success in that effort.”

According to records filed in the case:

Just after midnight on Aug. 29, Chapman appeared at a stranger’s home armed with a handgun and AR-15 style rifle, high high on methamphetamine. He handed the stranger a letter outlining his concerns over political events, his difficulty getting ammunition, and his belief that there would be a revolution starting on the Olympic Peninsula, Texas, and elsewhere.

Chapman drove his girlfriend to Olympic National Park where he started a fire and then felled a tree to block a road to the Deer Park campground, according to law enforcement.

Chapman told his girlfriend she was going to die in the “revolution.” The girlfriend called 9-1-1 and Chapman threw a can of soup at her, cutting her leg. Chapman stormed off into the woods with nine firearms including a stolen handgun, an AR-15 and two shotguns. He had more than 3500 rounds of ammunition.

Law enforcement evacuated the Deer Park campgrounds, trailheads, and road areas, and attempted to locate Chapman.

At about 3 p.m. Aug. 29, Chapman disabled the Olympic National Park radio communications site (a radio repeater) located at the summit of Blue Mountain, the release said.

The repeater is used by the park for emergency response, public safety, and administrative radio communications.

By disabling the repeater, Chapman left the northeast corner of the park without emergency communications such as would need to be used for a rescue in the park.

On Aug. 31, a drone located Chapman in the park. Chapman fired a short barrel shotgun at the drone, law enforcement said. Eventually, law enforcement was able to negotiate Chapman’s surrender with no injuries to anyone.

In her sentencing memo, Assistant U. S. Attorney Kristine Foerster said that more than 480 overtime hours were required from park service staff in Washington state over those three days, “and that does not include the response from out of state NPS employees who flew in, the FBI, or other local law enforcement agencies,” she said.

“This massive law enforcement response took officers and agents from already understaffed agencies away from their regular duties including emergency response, search and rescue, criminal investigations, and generally protecting the public,” she said.

“Hikers with overnight permits — some who fly in just to hike in ONP — all had to evacuate and were otherwise unable to begin or complete their trips,” she continued.

“The park lost out on significant revenue through the closures, and everyone within that area of the park had to be evacuated,” Foerster said.

Chapman has agreed to make restitution to those harmed by his actions, including losses to the National Park Service, and to specific individuals, incurred because of the closure of portions of Olympic National Park such as Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.

The exact amount of restitution will be determined at a later hearing.

Members of the public who were impacted by the park closure should contact the National Park Service at Olympic National Park to supply restitution information.

The case was investigated by the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service, the FBI, and the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) which includes officers from Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, the Sequim, Port Angeles, and Port Townsend Police Departments and the U.S. Border Patrol.

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