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US: Two New Mexico men arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Two New Mexico men were arraigned May 21 2014 on federal charges of aiming a laser pointer at an Albuquerque police helicopter on August 21 2013.

According to police, green laser light hit the cockpit window around four times, shining for several seconds each time. The crew notified ground officers who found Michael James Saavedra, 22, and Dylan James Demone, 23, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.

Michael Saavedra Dylan Demone laser Albuquerque
Saavedra (left) and Demone leave federal court after their May 21 2014 hearing

Saavedra told an officer that he aimed his laser at the helicopter. The police report said “Mr. Saavedra did not intend to harm anyone, nor was he aware it was illegal.”

Saavedra and Demone both pleaded not guilty to the charges. They face up to five years in federal prison, and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted.

In 2013, there were 27 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft near the Albuquerque International Sunport airport.

According to an FBI press release, “This case was brought pursuant to a Laser Threat Awareness Pilot Program established by the FBI in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to raise awareness of aircraft laser illumination threats. The pilot program was initiated on February 11, 2014, in a dozen U.S. cities, including Albuquerque, that have reported numerous laser strikes in order to educate the public about the risks posed to aviation safety when laser devises with beams of concentrated energy are pointed at aircraft. It also seeks to raise awareness about the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was signed into law on February 12, 2012, and established a new criminal law that prohibits the aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft that is in flight.”

From KRQE.com. and the FBI Albuquerque Division