SEATTLE (AP) - A Whatcom County man who spent time in federal prison for shining a spotlight at a U.S. Border Patrol Blackhawk helicopter that was flying over his house has been indicted on new charges involving Border Patrol agents, but his wife says he was just trying to get away from them.
The two-count federal indictment unsealed Tuesday said Wayne Groen intentionally assaulted, impeded and interfered with three U.S. Border Patrol agents on July 17 while they were engaged in their official duties. The first count refers to an incident with two agents identified only as C.M. and W.B. and says Groen used “a dangerous and deadly weapons, that is, a vehicle.”
The second count refers to one agent called J.M. but doesn’t mention a weapon.
Groen’s wife, Nicki Groen, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Border Patrol agents were putting up a camera across the road from their house and he sped past them in his car.
“He was just trying to get out of there,” she said. The agents then claimed Groen was trying to hit them, she said.
Their Lynden home is within a mile of the Canadian border and many people in town feel constantly harassed by agents, she said.
“They’re just picking on us,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Border Protection referred questions about the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, said “we take the safety of our Border Patrol agents seriously.”
Groen was convicted in 2011 after he stood in his underwear and shined a high-powered spotlight into the cabin of a Customs and Border Protection helicopter. He claimed the Blackhawk was about 600 feet over his home. His lawyers said he was simply curious about what the helicopter was doing so close to his home, and wanted to warn them against causing damage to his property.
Federal officials said the helicopter pilot was wearing night vision goggles and the spotlight blinded him, making it impossible to fly the aircraft. The co-pilot had to direct them away from the area, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.
A federal jury found him guilty on one count of incapacitation of an individual operating an aircraft. He was acquitted on a second charge of interfering with an aircraft. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison.
After the helicopter incident, the agency held town meetings to ease tensions between agents and the community, Nicki Groen said.
“They seemed to mellow out for a while but now they’re back at it,” she said.
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