PA man who prompted evacuation in Olympic National Park pleads guilty in standoff incident

Leader News Staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 7/20/22

A Port Angeles man who cut down a tree to block a campground road in the Olympic National Park last summer and warned of a coming revolution  has pleaded guilty in federal court to interfering …

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PA man who prompted evacuation in Olympic National Park pleads guilty in standoff incident

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A Port Angeles man who cut down a tree to block a campground road in the Olympic National Park last summer and warned of a coming revolution  has pleaded guilty in federal court to interfering with a federal communications system.

Caleb Jesse Chapman, 42, was high on methamphetamine and armed with nine firearms when he shut off access to the Deer Park campground and disabled the Olympic National Park radio communications site located at the summit of Blue Mountain in late August.

Authorities searched for Chapman for three days, and the closed popular section of Olympic National Park during one of its the busiest times of the year.

Chapman accepted a plea agreement and entered a guilty pleading July 13 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

The standoff started when Chapman appeared at a stranger’s home just after midnight on Aug. 29 armed with a handgun and AR-15 style rifle.

Chapman admitted he was high on methamphetamine when he handed the stranger a letter outlining his concerns over political events, his difficulty in obtaining ammunition, and his belief that there would be a revolution starting on the Olympic Peninsula, in Texas, and elsewhere, according to the plea agreement.

According to U.S. Attorney Nick Brown, Chapman drove his girlfriend to Olympic National Park where he felled a tree to block a road to the Deer Park campground. 

Chapman told his girlfriend she was going to die in the “revolution,” and she called 911. 

The woman was injured when Chapman threw a can of soup at her, cutting her leg. 

Chapman then stormed off into the woods with nine firearms including a stolen handgun, an AR-15 and two shotguns. Authorities said he also had more than 3,500 rounds of ammunition.

Law enforcement evacuated the Deer Park campgrounds, trailheads, and road areas, and attempted to find Chapman.

Around 3 p.m. Aug. 29, Chapman disabled the radio repeater at the summit of Blue Mountain. Officials said the repeater is used by the park for emergency response, public safety, and administrative radio communications and noted that by disabling the repeater, Chapman left the northeast corner of the park without emergency communications.

Authorities also said the Blue Mountain repeater was also the repeater that the National Park Service’s search-and-rescue helicopter, based at Mount Rainier, would need to use for rescue responses at Olympic National Park.

A drone found Chapman in the park on Aug. 31, and Chapman fired a short-barrel shotgun at the drone.

Law enforcement was able to eventually talk Chapman into surrendering and no one was injured in the standoff.

As part of the plea agreement, Chapman agreed to make restitution, 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.

Interference with a federal communications system is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Chapman is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan on Oct. 7.

Under the terms of the plea deal, federal prosecutors will recommend no more than
10 months in prison.

Bryan is not bound by the prosecutors’ recommendation and can impose any sentence up to the statutory maximum after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristine Foerster.

It was investigated by the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service, the FBI, and the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, which includes officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Sequim, Port Angeles, and Port Townsend police departments.  

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