The U.S. Coast Guard arrested a man suspected of shooting at one of their rescue helicopters near Venice, La. on Friday.
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According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, an MH-60 aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans was responding to an activated emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). The MH-60 helicopter crew found the EPIRB’s signal on a 40-foot sailing vessel approximately 75 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana.
As the helicopter approached the vessel, the crew attempted to lower a radio down to the vessel and observed one person and two dogs on board. The Coast Guard said this person then pointed what appeared to be a firearm at the Coast Guard helicopter and the aircrew heard objects striking the aircraft.
The helicopter crew immediately left the area and returned to Air Station New Orleans. Upon inspecting their aircraft, the aircrew observed impact marks on the helicopter rotors consistent with projectiles from a firearm.
Following the shooting incident, the Coast Guard dispatched a fixed-wing aircraft, a Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) cutter with FBI agents on board, and a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) boat crew to track the suspect vessel’s movement.
Coast Guard units also remained active in the vicinity of the suspect vessel to ensure the safety of other nearby vessels.
“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. The Coast Guard will continue to work across multiple levels of government to thoroughly investigate this incident.”
The Coast Guard was able to take the suspect into custody on Friday morning and they were transported to Venice, Louisiana, and transferred him to the CGIS.