VIDEO: Man who prompted shutdown of Olympic National Park guilty of interfering with communication system
The 42-year-old Port Angeles man who prompted an evacuation and shutdown of Olympic National Park in 2021 after making statements about a “revolution” happening on the Olympic pleaded guilty Attorney Wednesday to interfering with a federal Peninsula communications system, US Nick Brown announced .
Under terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a maximum sentence of 10 months.
Olympic National Park was shut down for multiple days in late August 2021 after Caleb Jesse Chapman stormed off into the woods with several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
According to the plea agreement, just after 12 am on Aug. 29, 2021, Chapman showed up at a stranger’s house armed with a handgun and an AR-15-style rifle. Chapman admitted to being high on methamphetamine, and handing the stranger a letter outlining his concerns about politics and a revolution on the Olympic Peninsula, Texas, and elsewhere.
According to a news release, Chapman drove his girlfriend to Olympic National Park, where he knocked a tree down to block a road to the Deer Park campground. Chapman stormed into the woods with nine firearms and more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition.
The Deer Park campgrounds, trailheads and road areas were all evacuated in an attempt to locate Chapman. Around 3 pm on Aug. 29, Chapman disabled the Olympic National Park radio communications repeater at the summit of Blue Mountain.
By disabling the repeater, Chapman left the entire northeast corner of the park without emergency communications. The repeater that Chapman disabled is the one that search-and-rescue helicopters based at Mt. Rainier would need to use for a rescue at Olympic National Park.
On Aug. 31, 2021, a drone located Chapman in the park. Chapman fired a short-barrel shotgun at the drone, but eventually law enforcement was able to negotiate his surrender with no injuries to anyone.
As part of his plea agreement, Chapman must make restitution payments to those affected by his actions, including losses to the National Park Service incurred by the closure of the park.
Interference with a federal communications system is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. US District Judge Robert J. Bryan is not bound by prosecutors’ 10-month recommendation and can impose any sentence up to the maximum.
Chapman is set to be awarded on Oct. 7, 2022.
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