David John McCormick was on a sailboat Sunday afternoon in Richardson Bay when Coast Guard officers on routine patrol noticed it had no registration numbers on her bow and decided to investigate.
The routine stop turned into a chase that lasted several hours. The Coast Guard told reporters it started when the skipper of the sailboat, or "master" as the Coast Guard calls him, refused to allow anyone on board.
"Came up alongside the sailing vessel and the master said, 'If you come onboard, I have weapons onboard and you will be met with violence,'" said Coast Guard Lt. J.G. Mark Leahey.
The boat's captain then cut the mooring lines and sailed away with the Coast Guard in pursuit. About 2.5 miles out to sea, the 85-foot Coast Guard cutter Sockeye convinced the boat's owner to allow a boarding party, the Coast Guard came along side with guns drawn.
"They came aboard and as the boarding officer was doing he's initial talking with the master, the master lunged and attacked the boarding officer," said Leahey.
Very quickly the Coast Guard team subdued the captain whose been identified as David John McCormick. It reportedly took an hour to read McCormick his rights because he wouldn't stop talking long enough to listen.
The Coast Guard says he had two passports, one from New Zealand and one from Ireland. McCormick told them he'd bought the boat several years ago in Alameda and had it berthed in Berkeley, but the Berkeley Marina says they don't recognize the boat and have no record of a David John McCormick.
The Coast Guard met for several hours with an assistant U.S. attorney on Monday afternoon, McCormick was arrested for assault; more charges may be added before he's brought into court.
Investigators are also exploring the possibility that he may be responsible for a rash of phony distress calls. They're checking his voice print against tape recordings of false SOS reports made over the past several months.
"It's a big deal, you have America's Cup going on out there. Any vessel that poses suspicious activity like that -- you never know what is going on. You have a lot of spectators out there and just in general the nice boating season, that kind of threat, I think it is a big deal. Someone making false distress calls, again even if it is not related, it's a very big deal because we send out crews when they could be doing something else," said Leahey.