PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man arrested in connection with a 2½-year-old incident in which a laser pointer was trained on a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that was approaching the runway has pleaded not guilty.
Randall Muck, 33, indicted May 16 by a grand jury, was arrested Monday on federal counts of aiming a laser pointer at the MH-65 Dolphin on Sept. 26, 2016, and for subsequently making false statements to government agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday in a press release.
Muck pleaded not guilty Monday, was released on his own recognizance and was ordered to appear at a July 15 hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, according to court records.
The aircraft, based at Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, was targeted by the laser while on air approach to the runway at the Ediz Hook base.
“When helicopter was still in air on short and final they were lasered by a green laser,” according to the 8:37 p.m. Sept. 26, 2017 computer-aided-dispatch narrative contained in the Port Angeles Police Department report of the incident.
Four Coast Guard personnel were on board.
“BLV [Believe] it came from Crown Park,” according to the narrative.
The aircraft commander said “the nose, then cabin was targeted with a green laser that flooded the cabin for about 2-5 seconds” about 4 miles east of the runway, according to the report.
The laser emanated from the 1900 block of West Fourth Street, according to the report.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the laser originated near Fourth and Hill streets.
Muck, later identified as a suspect, allegedly made false statements to the FBI on May 3, 2018, claiming he did not see the helicopter the night it was targeted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Both counts are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Given the distance of the beam, it was most likely a Class 3a, 3b, or 4 level laser,” according to the police report.
Class 3b lasers have a medium to high risk of eye injury hazard, while Class 4 lasers have a high to severe risk of eye injury hazard, according to www.lasersafetyfacts.com.
In the September 2016 incident, no one suffered permanent damage, but the crew had to return to base and be assessed medically before returning to duty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Coast Guard crews from Whidbey Island and Oregon covered the Port Angeles area while the air crew was being cleared to return for duty, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].