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US: Man aims laser from car at police helicopter, evades arrest, crashes

A man in a moving car aimed a green laser beam at a Fresno (Calif.) Police Department helicopter. A passenger in the car said the man, Michael Vincent Alvarez, did it because he “thought it would be funny to point a laser at the helicopter.” Alvarez then led officers on a high-speed chase which ended when the car crashed into a median; he suffered minor injuries.

At about 12:45 am on October 22 2017, the helicopter was providing support to ground units responding to a domestic violence disturbance when it was continuously illuminated by a green laser beam. The tactical flight officer was hit three times in the eyes.

The pilot had momentary flashblindness and lost night vision. The tactical flight officer had watering eyes, discomfort and pain. There was no reported eye injury.

The helicopter broke off from its mission to pursue the laser perpetrator.

The beam came from the driver’s side of a car traveling north on Highway 99 in Fresno. Ground officers pursued Alvarez’s car, which began a high-speed chase. Twice during the chase Alvarez stopped to drop off passengers. The car eventually crashed into a median. Alvarez got out and ran towards neighboring homes. He was apprehended by officers in the backyard of a home after a short foot pursuit.

Alvarez had minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, a baggie was found with substances suspected to be marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Inside the car’s driver side door pocket police found a laser marked “Laser 303” with a green multi-dot beam (perhaps a diffraction grating making a star-field-like pattern) and a danger label.

After an FBI investigation, Alvarez was charged with violating federal law by knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path. In addition, there were two previous felony warrants out for Alvarez’s arrest on other, unspecified charges.

From a report by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is here.