Port Angeles man pleads guilty to disabling repeater in park

Ranting about revolution, he prompted evacuation of Deer Park area

TACOMA — A Port Angeles man accused of assaulting a woman at Olympic National Park and prompting evacuation of a portion of the park has pleaded guilty to interfering with a government communication system.

Caleb Jesse Chapman, 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to the charge in relation to his actions Aug. 29-31, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.

High on methamphetamine and armed with 14 firearms, he made statements about “revolution” beginning on the Olympic Peninsula, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a maximum of 10 months in prison when Chapman is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan on Oct. 7.

The judge is not bound by the recommendation and could sentence Chapman up to 10 years in prison.

According to the plea agreement, just after midnight on Aug. 29, Chapman appeared at a stranger’s home armed with a handgun and AR-15 style rifle.

Chapman admits he was high on methamphetamine when 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Chapman drove his girlfriend to Olympic National Park where he felled a tree to block a road to the Deer Park campground. She called 9-1-1 and he told her she was going to die in the “revolution,” the office said.

While arguing with her, he hit her with a soup can, causing a laceration on her leg, and grabbed her by the head, hitting her head repeatedly with a car seat, according to the complaint filed when he was booked into Clallam County Jail on Aug. 31..

Chapman stormed off into the woods with nine firearms including a stolen handgun, an AR-15 and two shotguns. He had more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition.

Law enforcement evacuated the Deer Park campgrounds, trailheads and road areas while searching for Chapman. At about 3 p.m. Aug. 29, Chapman disabled the park’s radio repeater at the summit of Blue Mountain.

The repeater is used by the park for emergency response, public safety, and administrative radio communications. By disabling it, Chapman left the northeast corner of the park without emergency communications.

“In fact,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “the Blue Mountain repeater was also the repeater that the NPS Search and Rescue helicopter based at Mt. Rainier would need to use, for a rescue at Olympic National Park.”

On Aug. 31, a drone located Chapman. He fired a short-barrel shotgun at it, the office said.

Ultimately, law enforcement was able to negotiate Chapman’s surrender with no injuries to anyone.

As part of the plea agreement, 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, including the popular Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center.

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 Clallam and Jefferson county sheriff’s offices; the Sequim, Port Angeles, and Port Townsend police departments; and the U.S. Border Patrol.