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Troubled Marine veteran with PTSD sentenced for amassing arsenal, detonating IED in Bronx street

Courtroom and gavel. (Joe Gratz/Flickr)

A Marine veteran who amassed an astounding arsenal and planted an explosive device in neighbor’s car was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison during an emotional hearing that detailed his struggles with mental illness after serving in Iraq.

Richard Laugel detonated the bomb while his rival was behind the wheel in the Bronx in March 2016, days after a dispute over a parking spot in which the neighbor allegedly brandished a gun. The neighbor was unharmed by the blast and the gas tank miraculously did not explode. Authorities then discovered the troubled Marine had a pill press and was selling Xanax for as much as $4,000 per month to support himself.

Then, while he was awaiting trial for the botched bombing, the feds searched Laugel’s Baychester home in May 2018 and discovered an astonishing array of weapons including an AR-15, silencers, tools for making firearms, guns, pills and cocaine stuffed in a teddy bear.

“I just snapped,” Laugel, 39, said in Manhattan Federal Court, describing a powerful rush of adrenaline that overcame him after the neighbor pointed the gun.

Judge Paul Engelmayer wrestled with how to balance the extreme danger Laugel posed with the Marine’s heroism while serving in Iraq during the most violent periods of the war. Laugel enlisted two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He served as personal security for then-Gen. James Mattis and planned dangerous operations in Fallujah in 2005.

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During his two tours of duty Laugel was “frequently under attack, heard near-constant machine gun fire and saw death and destruction,” Engelmayer said.

Laugel returned to the U.S. in 2006 with profound post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You tried to blow up a moving car and turned your apartment into a cross between an armory and a pharmacy,” Engelmayer said. “Your PTSD does not excuse your crimes, but it does provide an explanation.”

The judge said he would have sentenced Laugel to around 20 years were it not for his “extraordinary personal history” and the toll it took on his sanity.

Laugel said he struggles with survivor’s guilt, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks. After returning home he drank, abused Xanax and developed what he called “a passion” for firearms and other weaponry.

“During my time in the Marines I received absolutely no instructions on how to negotiate a peaceful resolution with anyone. As Marines we were trained to use only violence and aggression to solve problems,” Laugel wrote in a letter cited by the judge.

“A large part of me felt emotionally numb and dehumanized by things I saw and did overseas,” Laugel added in court.

Authorities had said they found a grenade launcher during the search of Laugel’s home. They later determined the weapon was only used to launch flares or smoke bombs — not deadly explosives.

The Marine’s wife wrote a letter to the court describing him as an honorable person and family man. She did not attend the sentencing. Court papers say she remains committed to him.

The burly Laugel stood upright, with his hands behind his back, as the judge imposed sentence.

“You have a long road ahead of you but there is a great deal to admire about you,” Engelmayer said.

“Thank you again for your service. We are all in your debt. You have been a hero and you have it in yourself to be that way again.”

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© 2019 New York Daily News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.