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Six months later, Whidbey Island man charged for injuring ferry captains with laser

The laser that was confiscated from Mark Raden is 1,000 times more powerful than a standard laser pointer and can ignite a block of wood after just a few seconds. (Photo courtesy of the Washington State Patrol)

Six months after a man allegedly injured two ferry captains with a high powered laser, felony charges have been filed in Island County.

Mark Raden is charged with two counts of Assault in the Third Degree, which could carry a sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if he’s convicted.

Listen to Jillian Raftery’s report

According to State Patrol troopers who investigated, Mark Raden was riding the ferry Kitsap, on the Clinton to Mukilteo route and started shining a laser at the ferry Tokitae, which was on the opposite route. Troopers say Raden deliberately pointed the beam, which is 1,000 times more powerful than a standard laser pointer used in presentations, at the wheel house and temporarily blinded the ferry captains, also causing eye irritation.

The laser is so powerful, promotional videos show it lighting blocks of wood on fire within seconds.

This isn’t the first time the 27-year-old has been in trouble for using a laser. Last July in the south Whidbey Island town of Langley, Washington, police say they spotted Raden and a friend, 27-year-old Dillon Reisman, “taking turns using the laser and talking/laughing loudly about their exploits.”

Officers intervened when they say the two started shining the laser into windows of homes because it was late and they believed it would “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.”

According to the police report, Raden and Reisman didn’t cooperate. Instead, Raden started shining the laser directly into an officer’s face.

“When I looked at Officer Black, his entire head was illuminated in purple light and he was attempting to shield his eyes,” writes Officer David Marks in the police report. “Officer Black repeatedly directed Raden to stop pointing the laser into his eyes but Raden did not stop until Officer Black had repeatedly warned him to stop pointing the laser into his eyes.”

As for Reisman, officers say he just walked away and ended up in a scuffle when an officer tried to confront him.

Officer Marks said they later found empty liquor bottles on Reisman.

Police say Raden was involved in yet another laser incident in which he was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons. His history also includes a DUI that was pleaded down to Negligent Driving in the First Degree.

Despite the fact that shining a laser at state employees or law enforcement is a felony, it took until November 18, 2015 for prosecutors to file felony charges in the July case, and until April 1, 2016 to charge Raden in the October incident. The recommendation for charges wasn’t forwarded to the Island County Prosecutor until March 8.

In November, Trooper Christina Martin explained the case was complicated because they had to determine which jurisdiction would prosecute, since the alleged crime happened in the middle of the water on a ferry. While “lasing” is a known crime against airplane pilots, the incident was a first for Washington State Ferries. Getting surveillance tape may have also been a factor. Although the alleged crime was investigated by the State Patrol, it’s the Coast Guard that must release the video.

The delay is striking because it contrasts with the seriousness with which F.B.I. takes “lasing” incidents. So seriously, the agency started offering rewards of up to $10,000 for tips leading to the arrest of suspects targeting aircraft. Agents say it’s a growing threat that endangers the lives of pilots who are routinely targeted. They risk eye damage or worse if the light impairs their vision severely enough and long enough to throw them off course.

Despite that, lasing proves very difficult to investigate, according to the F.B.I. It took a year to track down a Long Island man charged with aiming a laser at two different aircraft.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is not a prank; it is a federal crime with penalties befitting its seriousness,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.

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