Feds: Catamaran Skipper Shoots at Coast Guard Crew Rescuing Him
Federal prosecutors have charged a catamaran skipper for firing at a US Coast Guard helicopter aircrew trying to rescue him in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.
Robert Stoudt, 50, made his initial appearance before US Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby in New Orleans on Monday, Sept. 19.
Charged with assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon and destruction of an aircraft, Stoudt remains incarcerated in Davant’s Plaquemines Parish Detention Center pending a Friday-morning detention hearing.
Searches of public records connected to Stoudt’s name and watercraft tie him to addresses in Colorado and Texas but not to any known rap sheet from before his arrest Friday in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I can’t comment at this time,” Stoudt’s criminal defense attorney, Ian Lewis Atkinson, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday, US Coast Guard watchstanders received an alert on Thursday at 1:38 a.m. from a personal location beacon located roughly 123 nautical miles southeast of Houma, Louisiana.
The beacon was registered to Stoudt, but officials were unable to contact him on any of the telephone numbers listed on the form. So they reached out to his daughter, and she told watchstanders that her father had set sail from Texas on Sept. 10 for Florida on board a white catamaran named “Serenity.”
Watchstanders scrambled an MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter aircrew, and they rendezvoused with the 40-foot sailboat about 75 nautical miles south of the Southwest Pass, officials said in a statement emailed to Coffee or Die.
The four-person aircrew started to lower a radio to communicate with the boat’s mariner, but then they noticed a man pointing what appeared to be a firearm at the helicopter and then heard something strike the aircraft, so they veered off, according to the complaint.
After landing in Louisiana, the crew counted three holes in the rotors, apparently from rounds that struck the helicopter, officials said.
“The crew members from the flight are witnesses in the ongoing investigation of this incident,” Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Graves told Coffee or Die Monday.
Coast Guard Investigative Service agents reviewing footage from the incident concluded Stoudt, flanked by two dogs, shot at least two flares toward the helicopter before retrieving a pistol and firing “several shots” at the aircraft, according to the complaint.
US Coast Guard watchstanders launched an HC-130J Super Hercules and a 45-foot response boat-medium to keep surveillance on the catamaran while a cutter with federal agents from the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI steamed out on Friday to board the vessel.
Personnel looking for a place to hook the tow line to haul the sailboat to shore noticed through the catamaran’s portholes that Stoudt had allegedly stowed ammo cans in his cabin.
The FBI declined to comment, but US Coast Guard officials said Stoudt was arrested without further incident and brought to Louisiana.