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Coast Guard cutter Liberty executive officer arrested

Posted: August 25, 2011 - 9:46pm

The executive officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Liberty was arrested Aug. 5 in Ketchikan on charges of second-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault on a police officer, first-degree harassment, resisting or interfering with arrest and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Lt. j.g. Paul A. Sprenger, 25, has a preliminary hearing set for Monday before Ketchikan judge Kevin Miller.

“The Coast Guard is fully cooperating with the Ketchikan Police Department with regards to the investigation,” Coast Guard spokesperson Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow said. “This is something the Coast Guard takes very seriously, which is why we cooperate with the other law enforcement agencies in the investigation. We are obviously concerned about it too.”

The Liberty is in Ketchikan for routine dry dock and maintenance and was at the time of the alleged transgressions, but is usually based out of Auke Bay.

Sprenger was arrested near midnight of the night in question. According to a Ketchikan Police Department press release, officers contacted Sprenger on Austin Street after receiving a report of a man attempting to break into Tongass Towers.

Upon arrival, officers observed Sprenger holding a broom and he was advised to lie on the ground. Sprenger continually refused officer commands and began a verbal tirade. Sprenger then began kicking, spitting and threatening the officers multiple times. Officers eventually were able to restrain Sprenger.

After being booked and held on $1,000 bail, Sprenger was taken to Ketchikan Correctional Center. He was arraigned on Aug. 5. on charges burglary, assault in the 4th degree – reckless injury; harassment 1 – offensive contact with fluids, resist/interference arrest – by force, and criminal mischief 4 (property damage between $50 - $499).

According to a Wadlow, Sprenger has been temporarily relieved of his duties as Liberty’s executive officer and is temporarily reassigned to a staff position at Coast Guard Sector Juneau until the investigation is complete.

“His new staff position is not connected or associated with anything involving the ongoing investigation,” Wadlow said. “All military members are subject to the civilian courts. We are also subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is how military personnel incidents are handled within the organization.

“We are not taking that step yet because the investigation is not finished,” Wadlow said. “Once we have those results, that will be the next step in the process. Pending the results of the investigation he will be held accountable in the civilian courts and then he will also be held accountable within the Coast Guard organization as well. We are accountable to the American public, we want to be as transparent as possible as to how we are spending their money, how are people are expected to behave. ... . If someone gets in trouble we will be as forthright as we can as far as releasing results once everything has become official.”

The Liberty is a 110-foot Island-class fast patrol boat. The multi-mission patrol boat operates in Sector Juneau of Coast Guard District 17. The Liberty has 16 enlisted crew and two officers. Their duties include search and rescue, law enforcement, homeland security, and force protection.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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