The US Coast Guard has promised to prosecute anyone who points a laser pointer at the crews of SAR planes and ships, and they are following through. On Monday, a man from Port Angeles, Washington pleaded guilty to federal charges resulting from pointing a laser pointer at a Coast Guard helicopter crew in 2016.
Randall Muck, 35, admitted his guilt on one count of assaulting a federal officer, a less serious charge than what prosecutors initially asked for. He was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest with electronic surveillance, one year of probation and a fine of $ 1,000.
Muck shone a green laser light on the crew of an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter while on final approach to Port Angeles Air Force Base on September 26, 2016. The four-person crew returned to the base without any injuries.
Coast Guard investigative officers leaned into Muck after making incriminating statements at work. His girlfriend also witnessed the act from their home and provided information to investigators. Despite these early ruptures, the case is progressively advancing through the court system: it was referred to federal prosecutors in February 2018 and presented to a grand jury in 2019, and the guilty plea entered on Monday came more than five years after the offense. .
“These types of incidents can be very dangerous to the safety of our crews and disrupt our ability to respond as a search and rescue resource,” said Cmdr. Mark Hiigel, former Air Station Port Angeles commander. “In this particular case, the crew was medically immobilized for about two hours. This resulted in Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and Columbia River Sector, located in Warrenton, Oregon, covering our area of responsibility until the Port Angeles crew were medically cleared. “
Laser pointers can endanger boat crews and crews due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness, or temporary loss of night vision. At worst, it can even cause lasting eye damage. Coast Guard flight rules require that aircraft stop their mission if a laser shines in the eyes of a crew member.
“We need the general public to understand that the dangers of playing with green laser lights go beyond the medical risks to our crews, it puts all sailors at risk due to delayed response times if they become in distress. “said Cmdr. Hiigel.
Pointing a laser pointer at an airplane or ship is a felony, and it carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.