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Man threatens to shoot down Coast Guard aircraft and sink its vessels

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and Coast Guard Cutter Legare provide support of search and rescue and humanitarian aid in the Bahamas, Sept. 10, 2019.

COAST GUARD AIR STATION CLEARWATER

By KAVITHA SURANA | Tampa Bay Times | Published: September 13, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Tribune News Service) The call came over marine radio from somewhere off the gulf coast of Florida: A man threatening to attack the Coast Guard by sinking its vessels and shooting down its aircraft.

“The next time I see one of your planes in the air, I will shoot that plane down and kill the pilot and the passengers,” the male caller said in the latest threatening radio transmission, recorded on Aug. 13. “You are playing with the Russian government, I suggest you back the f--- off.”

“Because if you don’t back the f--- off you’re going to lose a lot of coast guardsmen, do you understand me?”

Now Coast Guard officials are asking for the public’s help to identify whoever is broadcasting the threats and fake calls for help.

Officials said they’ve heard other strange radio messages from a similar voice on channel 22A, which is the Coast Guard’s maritime safety information channel and is monitored 24-7. Other messages started with the traditional “mayday, mayday. mayday” that signals an emergency broadcast from a boat or plane.

But officials said there was no actual emergency. In one transmission, the man said “scrambling all jets we are under nuclear attack.”

In the Aug. 13 recent radio message, he threatened to “bomb” Coast Guard “jets”, set off “every depth charge in the gulf” if it launches planes or helicopters off its “aircraft carriers” (it doesn’t have any), demanded the closure of all U.S. airports and threatened to sink its ships. They sound like they’re coming from the same man, officials said.

False maydays happen from time to time, said Petty Officer 1st class Ayla Kelley, but usually it’s kids playing on the radio.

These threats are different.

“This gentleman is directly threatening coast guard assets and personnel,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily seem credible, but that doesn’t mean this person doesn’t have ill intentions

The agency is taking the false threats seriously, Kelley said, because it immediately responds to any distress call. Responding to fake calls wastes taxpayer money and ties up Coast Guard resources.

“If we are mobilized to one area looking for distress for something that’s not actually there, and a real emergency happens elsewhere, we could be at a disadvantage," she said.

Penalties for sending out false distress calls is a federal offense that can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines plus the costs of any search launched by the Coast Guard.

Anyone with information about this case can call the Coast Guard Investigative Service office at the Sector St. Petersburg base at (727) 535-1437, ext. 2308.

©2019 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
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