Investigation continues into ferry laser incident

MUKILTEO — Detectives with the Washington State Patrol are wrapping up their investigation into a man who allegedly shined a high-powered laser at two ferry captains last fall.

They expect to forward their findings to the Island County Prosecutor’s Office for review, Sgt. Kyle Smith said. The man, described as being in his mid-20s, is under investigation for assault and illegal laser use, both of which are potential felonies.

The State Patrol declined to provide the man’s exact age or city of residence.

“The agency cannot comment on the case until it’s closed and turned over to the prosecutor,” spokesman Kyle Moore said.

The Oct. 22 incident involved two ferries on the water between Mukilteo and Clinton. Washington State Ferries are policed by troopers.

The suspect was on the car deck of the Kitsap, headed toward Mukilteo, as it passed the Tokitae, which was on its way to Clinton. Two ferry captains were targeted by the laser in separate wheelhouses, according to police. One suffered a damaged retina and a first-degree burn to the eyelid. The burns initially were believed to be more serious. Neither captain required a trip to the emergency room.

Under state law, it’s illegal to use a laser to impair anyone operating a vehicle for a public or private transit system. The same goes for shining lasers at police, firefighters, pilots and school bus drivers.

Depending on how it’s prosecuted, the offense, called “unlawful discharge of a laser,” can be a felony or a misdemeanor. Troopers say they are investigating the ferry incident as a potential felony; the decision will be up to prosecutors.

The laser used on the ferry captains was not the same kind of device used as a pointer in business presentations. It weighed about 2 pounds and came with a manufacturer’s warning that it could start fires.

The ferry system “remains concerned about laser strikes,” spokesman Ian Sterling said. “They have the potential to hurt people and lasers should not be considered toys.”

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