Tacoma – A 36-year-old Port Angeles, Washington, man pleaded guilty and was sentenced this morning to probation and home confinement in connection with a September 26, 2016, laser pointer strike on a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Randall Muck pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault on a federal officer. U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle told Muck, “What you did was extremely reckless, even if you didn’t intend to strike the helicopter.” Judge Settle ordered Muck to be on 90 days home confinement with electronic monitoring as part of his one-year period of probation.
Muck was indicted in May 2019, charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and making false statements to government agents. In pleading guilty to assault on a federal agent, Muck admitted that on the evening of September 26, 2016, he pointed a high-powered laser beam at a Coast Guard helicopter. According to reports of the incident, the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was descending when it was hit by a laser that originated near Fourth and Hill Streets in Port Angeles. Laser light can cause temporary loss of vision and force an air crew to abort its mission. In this incident, no one suffered permanent damage, but the crew had to return to base and be assessed medically before returning to duty. In the sentencing memo, prosecutors noted that because the helicopter crew was grounded for a time, the region was without a local emergency response helicopter crew.
Sentencing documents reveal Muck was identified as a suspect, when coworkers reported he had been bragging about the incident at work. Later when Muck learned of the criminal investigation, he made statements that co-workers should not report his involvement to law enforcement, or he would retaliate. Muck is no longer employed by that company.
The case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Grady Leupold and Erika Evans.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.