Port Angeles, Washington man sentenced for damaging a communications tower during 3-day stand-off in Olympic National Park
Defendant, high on meth, used a chainsaw, and illegal firearms to force evacuation of eastern section of park
Tacoma – A 42-year-old Port Angeles, Washington, man was sentenced today 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, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Caleb Jesse Chapman’s actions from August 29, to 31, 2021, resulted in the evacuation and closure of a popular section of Olympic National Park at one the busiest times of the year. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan noted that Chapman 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.
“Mr. Chapman’s conduct put many people at risk and spread fear in the community. 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,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “He has spent time since his arrest working to be drug free. We wish him success in that effort.”
According to records filed in the case, just after midnight on August 29, 2021, Chapman appeared at a stranger’s home armed with a handgun and AR-15 style rifle. Chapman 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.
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. 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. Around 3 PM on August 29, 2021, Chapman disabled the Olympic National Park radio communications site (radio repeater) located at the summit of Blue Mountain. 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. In fact, 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 August 31, 2021, a drone located Chapman in the park. Chapman fired a short barrel shotgun at the drone. Ultimately, law enforcement was able to negotiate Chapman’s surrender with no injuries to anyone.
In her sentencing memo, Assistant United States Attorney Kristine Foerster noted a variety of impacts and costs caused by Chapman’s actions. “Over 480 overtime hours were required from NPS staff in Washington 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. 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…. 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. The Park lost out on significant revenue through the closures, and everyone within that area of the Park had to be evacuated.”
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 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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kristine Foerster.