U.S. Coast Guard Arrests Boater for Shooting at a Rescue Helicopter

File image courtesy USCG

Published Sep 18, 2022 10:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service arrested an individual near Venice, Louisiana, Friday for allegedly firing a gun at a Coast Guard helicopter during a response to an EPIRB signal.

Early Thursday morning, U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District received a signal from an activated EPIRB registered to a 40-foot sailing vessel. The coordinates corresponded to a position about 75 miles to the south of Southwest Pass. In response, district watchstanders dispatched a Jayhawk helicopter aircrew out of Air Station New Orleans.

Upon arriving on scene, the aircrew spotted one individual and two dogs aboard the sailboat. The aircrew tried to lower down a radio to communicate, but the person responded by aiming what appeared to be a firearm at the helicopter. The aircrew heard what sounded like impacts on the aircraft and departed in order to protect the crew and the helicopter from damage. After returning to base, the aircrew found what appeared to be bullet impacts on the helicopter's rotors. 

To contain an apparent safety threat, the Coast Guard dispatched a cutter with U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and FBI agents on board, along with a fixed-wing aircraft and a response boat crew to track the sailboat. The responders stayed near the vessel in order to make sure that it did not pose a threat to other mariners. 

On Friday morning, the response team arrested the person aboard the sailboat without any difficulties. The individual was disembarked in Venice, Louisiana and transferred to CGIS custody. 

“Safety of life was our number one priority during this challenging incident,” said Lt. Phillip VanderWeit, spokesperson for the Eighth Coast Guard District. “Through the professional and skillful work of our crews and interagency partners, we were able to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution."