Suspect pleads guilty to aiming laser pointer at Coast Guard aircrew

A Washington state resident has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to aiming a laser pointer at a Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles aircrew in 2016.

Randall Muck, 35, of the Port Angeles area pled guilty to the lesser offense of assault on a federal officer under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 111a. He was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring, one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.

The Coast Guard said that Muck illuminated an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew with a green laser light while the aircrew was on final approach to Air Station Port Angeles on Sept. 26, 2016. The four-member crew was able to return to base with no injuries reported.

Muck was identified as the subject following incriminating statements he made at work, according to Coast Guard Investigative Service agents. Muck’s girlfriend witnessed the action from their residence and provided corroborating information. The case was referred to the Department of Justice Western District of Washington in February of 2018 and presented to a grand jury on May 16, 2019.

Laser pointers can cause great danger to Coast Guard air and boat crews due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision. Coast Guard flight rules dictate that aircraft must abort their mission if a laser is shined in the eyes of an aircrew member.

Knowingly pointing a laser beam at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft is a felony crime under federal law, subject to fine or imprisonment or both.  It is also a federal crime to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate or interfere with a federal officer while engaged in performance of official duties.

The Port Angeles Police Department, Coast Guard Investigative Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation.