Whidbey man charged for pointing high-powered laser at ferry captains

COUPEVILLE — An Island County judge has ordered a Freeland man to stay away from lasers.

Mark Raden, 27, is accused of shining an industrial laser — a model powerful enough to start fires — at a police officer in July and then two ferry captains in October.

In both of the cases, he is charged with felonies in Island County Superior Court. Both cases are scheduled for trial in June.

Raden also was accused of a third incident last year involving a laser, but that didn’t lead to charges, officials said Monday.

The laser was confiscated in October by the Washington State Patrol, which polices the state ferry system.

In forensic testing, the laser was pointed at a piece of wood.

“The piece of wood immediately began to darken and smoldered in about 3 seconds, with visible smoke coming off,” a trooper wrote. “It was obvious the laser was a hazard and could be used as a weapon.”

In the October case, two ferry captains were targeted on the route between Mukilteo and Clinton. One of the captains suffered a damaged retina and a first-degree burn to the eyelid. Both captains had to be seen by a doctor.

Raden claimed he was only trying to shine the laser at the water from one ferry but the light had bounced into the other ferry’s wheelhouse.

He was charged April 1 with third-degree assault in the ferry case. He pleaded not guilty April 4. He was released without bail under the condition he not own or possess any lasers.

His other pending felony charge is for unlawful use of a laser in Langley.

In that case from July, he and a friend, also a 27-year-old man, reportedly were taking turns shining a laser at various objects. At some point, Raden began shining the device into people’s windows, according to the charges. When officers approached, Raden allegedly shone the light into one of the officer’s faces.

The officer’s “entire head was illuminated in purple light and he was attempting to shield his eyes,” the charges state. Raden was warned to stop several times. His friend allegedly tried to run and fought with the officers. The friend was charged with resisting arrest and third-degree assault. That man later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, according to a story in the The Daily Herald’s sister paper, The Whidbey News-Times.

Raden also had a friend with him when he was detained after the ferry incident. The charging papers don’t say whether it was the same friend.

In the other July case, people called 911 after Raden showed up at their bonfire on the beach in Freeland, said Ed Wallace, a detective with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

At first, Raden was invited to join the group on the beach. Then he reportedly pulled out a clear mason jar of liquid and poured it on the fire.

The liquid “caused the fire to change to a green color and flare up,” Wallace said. “They asked him to leave at that point. He became belligerent and angry and refused.”

A scuffle broke out, and Raden allegedly threatened to throw the liquid, which he claimed was acid, in people’s faces. As he walked away, he shined what appeared to be a green laser at one man’s head and torso. People on the beach couldn’t see the device and were concerned it might be the kind of laser affixed to firearms. The case was later closed without charges.

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.

Investigators on Monday said they planned to make sure information on the beach incident was provided to prosecutors who are handling the other two laser cases.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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