US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.
The appeals court noted that, prior to the March 2013 laser incident, a friend of Gardenhire said that shining a laser beam into another person’s eye could lead to blindness. The appeals court then went on to say that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft…. That one knows that the laser is dangerous when pointed directly in a person’s eyes does not mean that one knows about the beam’s ability to expand and refract, rendering it particularly hazardous for pilots in an aircraft miles away, or that the danger is heightened at nighttime because the pilot’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.”
The court specifically referred to the lack of any notice, label or other information regarding the risk of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft: “Gardenhire heeded the only warning he was given—not to shine the laser directly in anyone’s eyes—and he was not immediately alerted to any additional risks he was creating by aiming the beam at an aircraft.”
After the Southwest pilot reported the laser illumination, the helicopter located the source and sent ground units to investigate. A 15-year-old boy visiting his friend was found with the laser.
Police “explained the danger and legal repercussions” of aiming a laser at an aircraft to the teens. Charges were not filed because neither youth had a criminal record, and the teens expressed “remorse” at their actions.
From Fox 5 San Diego
It is alleged the man targeted a Seahawk helicopter from 816 Squadron as it was returning to HMAS Albatross after a training flight about 10.30pm. The high-powered laser was pointed at the aircraft for around a minute from the car park of the man’s workplace at South Nowra.
The helicopter landed safely, with the four crew members on board treated for slight eye pain.
Police from the Shoalhaven Local Area Command interviewed the pilot and co-pilot, who provided an approximate location of the beam’s origin. Police searched the area and located the 19-year-old man.
A laser pointer was seized by police and the man was issued with a future court attendance notice and is due to appear in Nowra Local Court on November 19.
From the South Coast Register
Ground police who were directed by the helicopter to the laser’s source. The boy was given a warning. Police described the laser as an “astronomy” laser used to locate objects in the sky.
From the Baltimore Sun, WFMD, and CBS Baltimore
The incident occurred July 14 2014, when a sheriff’s helicopter was struck “numerous times” by a laser beam. Ground officers were directed to the source of the beam, where the two brothers were arrested without incident.
A trial conference was set for November 12 2014.
From Valley News
Seventeen-year-old Daniel Castillo first pointed the laser at an aircraft coming into to land at Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to find the source. Castillo then aimed three times at the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to his location where he was arrested.
The youth told WZVN TV that he was playing with the laser and did not mean any harm. His uncle said that Castillo did not know it was wrong: “It’s not like it was intentional to hurt someone, he didn’t know the consequence.”
A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division said that laser illuminations can be “very distracting and devastating... All of our crews have been hit with lasers at one point or another. It’s just getting worse and worse.”
From WZVN ABC-7
According to Brundage’s lawyer, the teen wanted to see if the laser light could reach the CMPD helicopter. It did; Brundage told his parents and they called police. His lawyer says the youth is a “really good kid who made a really dumb decision” and is “ready to face up to” prosecution.
Smith Hayden Brundage
The FBI joined the local police department in investigating the incident. The federal agency has not decided whether to file federal charges.
According to the FAA, there were 34 laser shining incidents to date in 2014, in North Carolina; nine of these occurred in the Charlotte area.
From WFMY News 2, Time Warner Cable News and WSOC-TV
On June 7 2014, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was responding to an incident in Oakland when the flight officer noticed two green flashes aimed at the aircraft. Ground officers found a laser pointer in Palomino’s pocket.
The helicopter had to break off a search with the Oakland Police Department, to deal with the laser incident. In an affidavit, a FBI special agent stated that “the two officers in the CHP helicopter had to divert their attention back and forth between searching for the source of the laser and providing assistance to the OPD.”
According to SFGate, “In a recorded telephone conversation from jail, Palomino asked his mother in Spanish if she had recorded a news segment about the incident, which he described as an ‘embarrassment,’ Koh wrote [in the affidavit]. ‘Palomino’s mother replied by stating, ‘You should be embarrassed for doing dumb a– things.’ “
Palomino is free on $10,000 bond with a condition of a 6 pm curfew. The teen was released into the custody of his mother, and will be arraigned on September 5 2014.
From NBC Bay Area and SFGate
The area commander told the Larne Times that lasing aircraft is an offense under the Air Navigation Order as it is “highly irresponsible and dangerous”.
From the Larne Times
The pilot located the beam at the Brookstone Estate in Peel Green. Ground officers found a 13-year-old with a laser. They confiscated the laser and spoke to the youth. No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation is ongoing.
The pilot did not need or seek medical attention.
According to the chief inspector, there were five incidents “in the past couple of months.”
From the Manchester Evening News
Jasiel Medina-Quintana told deputies he was playing in his backyard and did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. A neighbor interviewed by WKMG said the teen shouldn’t have been arrested: “I buy them [laser pointers] for my kids all the time.... What are they going to do? Arrest every kid who has a laser pointer?” asked Joanne King.
Medina-Quintana was booked into the Osceola County jail and was later released into his mother’s custody.
This incident comes less than a month after another Orlando-area teen was arrested on June 7 for the same offense.
Trevor Ragno of Longwood, Fl. aimed a green laser light at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was on patrol. Ground officers were directed to a home where Ragno was found and arrested. He was released on $1000 bond the next morning.
Officials said there have been five incidents of lasers being pointed at pilots in Seminole County, all of which led to arrests. [The timespan of the five incidents -- during 2014 or all-time? -- was not indicated.]
ClickOrlando.com has an online news story from WKMG-TV which includes video from the helicopter of the laser attack, and of a person running away from a home. Below are two screens captured from the video.
From ClickOrlando.com. Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.
Jenny Gutierrez, 19, was captured after the pilot followed Gutierrez to her home, and reported the location to sheriff’s deputies.
He is out on bail until January 17 2014.
From Kent Online
Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.
In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.
Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”
His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
From Wigan Today
Officers on the ground found a teenage suspect who admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter. They arrested Joey Martin, 19, and charged him with illumination of aircraft by intense light.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the second story in October 2013 where law enforcement flew special helicopter missions to draw out a laser perpetrator. The other case involved a complex, multi-agency supervision of a suspect in Portland, Oregon. This could be a coincidence -- such missions probably have been flown in the past. But it may also indicate that law enforcement is becoming more proactive and determined to locate and arrest perpetrators.
At about 10 pm, the Roseville Police received reports of a green laser being aimed at vehicles. As officers were responding, the CHP reported a laser pointed at them.
From the Celebrity Examiner
A 20-year-old man from Preston was charged with interfering with conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon. An 18-year-old man from Coburg will be charged on summons with possessing a prohibited weapon. The other two men were released without charges.
From ABC News
The teen admitted to ground officers that he had lased the aircraft. His laser pointer was confiscated and he was handed over to his parents. He faces an investigation for “a serious intervention into the air.”
An airport spokesperson said that there were 27 laser incidents in Berlin during 2012, and 261 in all of Germany.
From BZ-Berlin (original German text and Google-translated English text) and T-Online (original German text and Google-translated English text)
These are the two most recent Edmonton incidents:
- On September 6 2013, the city police Air-1 helicopter was repeatedly hit by a laser in the west Edmonton area. Two teens were arrested, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female; charges are pending.
- On September 7 2013, multiple arrests were made after Air-1 was hit for several minutes in north Edmonton. Three males, aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged with assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.
During the press event, police said that users ignore warnings that come with lasers, that they often don’t realize or understand the hazard, that a ban on lasers is not the answer, and that their pilots do fly with laser protective eyewear. Details are at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.
From BBC News Tyne and Wear
UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress
On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said this was the first incident he had heard of in “a long time” in the area.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser
From WWMT Newschannel 3 and MLive. A video news report is at WOODTV.com.
Feliciano was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, and "related offenses." He could also face federal charges.
This comes four days after 20-year-old Luis Martinez was arrested for a similar type of police helicopter illumination.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights
During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.
However, at 3:30 am, a caller told police that juvenile males -- one with a laser pointer -- had knocked on his door and then run away. The caller’s location was about a mile from the original laser incident search area.
Police responding to the call found the 11-year-old and the laser pointer nearby. He was booked and then later released to his mother.
From the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Radio Network
As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
On March 29 2012, the North Hollywood teenager aimed a laser beam from his backyard at a Cessna that was landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot had vision problems lasting about a day, after being lased multiple times in the eye. The Pasadena Police Department sent a helicopter to investigate. Gardenhire again aimed at the craft, hitting the pilot six times. The pilot had protective equipment and was not injured.
Gardenhire lased the aircraft from his backyard (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
According to his attorney, Gardenhire was unaware of the hazard: “[He] had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away…. [A] severe sentence would be disproportionate to the conduct.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire told FBI agents that the friend who loaned him the laser told him not to shine it at anyone’s eyes because it would blind people. She said Gardenhire telling the FBI he didn't think about the dangers doesn't mean he wasn't aware of the dangers and responsible for the consequences.
"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse - that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
Gardenhire was arrested in April 2012. He was the second person indicted under the Feb. 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. (The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.) He and pleaded guilty in October 2012. He could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the federal law. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said in court that he sentenced Gardenhire to 30 months so as to send a message to other people.
From CNN, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, Wired and Burbank Leader. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered this story in March 2012 when the initial incident was reported, and in April 2012 when Gardenhire was indicted.
The laser was described as “about 10 inches long and about as big around as a thumb.”
From The Republic and WAVE3.com
A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight
From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.
On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”
Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.
Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”
From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.
The man was arrested on unspecified charges, most likely assault with a weapon and charges under the Aeronautics Act for aiming a bright light at an aircraft.
This was the fourth lasing incident for AIR 1 since February 1 2011.
From the Winnipeg Free Press and CJOB
As of July 26 he had not been charged with a crime. However, an investigation is continuing, especially to find out if the boy was responsible for the July 15 lasing of a JetBlue flight that drew nationwide attention.
From Newsday, NBC New York and CBS New York
From This Is Lancashire
Police looking for the laser source found a group of teenagers. One had a laser pointer and knife. He will be charged under the Youth Justice Act.
From the Herald Sun and Sky News.
The age of the youth was not reported.
From the La Cañada Valley Sun
Gardenhire had been arrested on state charges at his North Hollywood home about two hours after the March 29 lasing, and had been free on bail while the FBI and other authorities worked on the federal indictment. Each federal count carries a maximum prison term of 5 years, so Gardenhire faces a total of 10 years in prison. He could also be charged under a separate FAA civil suit for interference with an aircraft.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
A post on Gardenhire’s Facebook page just before the federal charge said he was going to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in LA: “Twin towers tomorrow... Not looking forward !!!:/ whats poppin though?=)”. A post afterwards said “There on to me o.O”. On Facebook, he stated his Activity as “graffing” (complex graffiti) and his Interests as “Bitches and hoes”.
From 89.3 KPCC, the Glendale News, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly.com, and 7th Space Interactive.
*The term “commercial-grade” is not a standard term in the laser field. An FBI spokeswoman told LaserPointerSafety.com that the term “was not a technical description but one to differentiate between a small personal laser one might use for an office presentation, as opposed to the kind used in the attack, which might be used for the grand opening of a department store or other commercial enterprise.” It is surprising to LaserPointerSafety.com that a teenager would have such a laser, which would require wall power (110 VAC) and would be bulky and thus harder to aim at an aircraft. We are trying to get more details.
UPDATED, October 29 2012: Gardenhire pleaded guilty to deliberately aiming at multiple aircraft. Sentencing was set for January 2013. From the Burbank Leader.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The incident happened about 10 pm on March 30 2012, near Pacific Avenue and Ventura Freeway. The helicopter crew was able to track the laser and inform ground officers. A group of men were running into a home when the police arrived. The 16-year-old told officers he was aiming at the moon when the helicopter appeared in the beam path. He was booked for discharging a laser at an aircraft.
The Glendale location is 7 miles east of the day-earlier North Hollywood location.
From the Glendale News-Press
According to deputies, a witness had told the teens to stop lasing, because they were breaking the law. It is unknown whether this was told to them before or after they illuminated the helicopter.
From Clay Today
The teen was arrested at a location (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
The jet was illuminated twice while on approach to the airport. The helicopter was hit approximately six times. There were no injuries, or adverse effects on airport operations.
The teen’s name was withheld pending an FBI investigation.
From the Burbank Leader and North Hollywood Patch
UPDATED April 19 2012: Adam Gardenhire, 18, was charged on April 18 2012 with two federal counts of aiming a laser at an aircraft, in violation of a new law that took effect in mid-February. The teen faces up to 10 years in prison. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
From This is Bristol
Less than three hours later, a laser was aimed at an aircraft in Glenavy, County Antrim. A male was arrested.
From 2 separate BBC News reports here and here
Juan Luis Gomez
The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.
From Bedfordshire On Sunday
The Chief Superintendent of Avon and Somerset Police said “Anyone who shines a laser at an aircraft performs a dangerous and reckless act. These people have no consideration for the safety of the aircraft or its crew. When a laser is directed at any aircraft it puts life at risk and in the case of the police helicopter hinder the apprehension of offenders and delay the investigation of crime. In 2010 there were 90 reported laser hits against aircraft and last year more than 100 incidents involving aircraft and vehicles. This is something we take seriously…. Those who use the pens … need to know that they face arrest and possible prosecution if they are caught.”
From the Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary and BBC News Bristol
UPDATE, March 19 2012: Charges against the three teenagers were dropped, due to lack of sufficient evidence.
On September 27 2011, a police helicopter was searching for suspects when a laser pen was aimed at it for about 10 minutes. The pilot was flashblinded and suspended the search while he recovered. The pilot was able to identify a suspect. Dean Riley, of Cator Cresent, New Addington in the London Borough of Croydon was arrested by ground officers. He initially said he was not involved. The top of the laser pen was found in his pocket.
Four months for aiming a laser at a helicopter
During sentencing, Riley’s lawyer described him as “extremely remorseful and regretful” and said Riley wanted to apologize. The judge said the pilot “could have crashed and caused untold damage and injury. The court takes offenses of this nature extremely seriously.”
From the Croydon Guardian
18-year-old Pravikash Chandra was arrested and charged with four counts of endangering transport. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
A spokesperson for the Eagle said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a risk to the crew.”
From the New Zealand Herald
UPDATE July 18 2012: Chandra pleaded guilty to all four charges of endangering transport. Sentencing was set for September 2012. A report on the laser’s characteristics, applications, place of purchase and use instructions will be prepared for the judge. From the New Zealand Herald and the Herald Sun.
UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: The two were found guilty on November 10, 2012 according to the New Zealand Herald. It was not stated why the trial was moved from March 13 to November. Sentencing was set for February 2013.
From the New Zealand Herald and MSN NZ. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.
From the San Diego Union Tribune and 10News.com
From BBC News
The three will be arraigned in court on January 9.
There had been concern over local airspace due to a January 8 political event at Free State Stadium with over 100,000 persons in attendance. The laser incident appears to be unrelated to a temporary Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring general aviation and recreation pilots to file flight plans in advance.
From The New Age. According to a separate story in The New Age, this was only the second time that arrests have been made in South Africa for aiming lasers at aircraft. The first was in May 2010 during a World Cup event.
The helicopter was hit on January 6 2012, after returning the hikers to their automobile. The crew identified the source and directed ground officers to a house in Surprise, a town located 20 miles northwest of Phoenix, where four juveniles were found with a laser pointer. Apparently they had also been aiming the laser at cars on a nearby road. After investigation, the 14-year-old was arrested on a felony charge of endangerment.
Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a statement that “this person could have seriously injured my employees and put more lives at risk.”
From AZcentral.com and AZfamily.com
No arrest was made that evening, but police will be speaking with the parents (who were not home at the time). Misdemeanor or felony charges may be filed. If a misdemeanor, the penalty could be up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine. If a felony, the penalty could be from 16 to 36 months in state prison and/or a $2000 fine.
From the Pasadena Star-News
Original Hebrew article from YNet; Google translation into English available here
Benjamin Ireland; four months in jail
Benjamin Ireland and Ryan Whybrow, both 19 years old, looked stunned as the judge sent them to young offenders’ institutes.
The two were at a party and were drinking when they decided to point green laser pens at a police helicopter “for a laugh”. The pilot and crew were flashblinded by repeated and continued illumination. The pilot made an emergency landing. Ground units directed to the location arrested Ireland and Whybrow.
The two pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. At sentencing, the judge said he was sending “a very clear message … to anybody else who is minded to behave in this way.”
From This Is Hull and East Riding
From the Worthing Herald
His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.
From Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.
The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.
Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.
From Kent Online
On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.
The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”
French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”
From the Birmingham Mail
The teen was arrested on suspicion of endangering aircraft. He was released on bail until October 27.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser and BBC News
An air operations supervisor said “such acts defy belief.” He noted that police can easily locate laser offenders and ground units can arrive “very quickly.”
The Cambridge News said that in 2010, there were five incidents involving lasers being aimed at the Cambridgeshire police helicopter.
From the Coventry Telegraph and the Cambridge News
The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.
The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a photo gallery at Altapress.ru.
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.
Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).Read More...
Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.
On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.
A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”
From This Is The West Country
In December 2010, James Paul Burton aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police said Burton -- 19 at the time -- admitted the act and said he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. (The Auckland Now story did not say how the incident affected the pilot or the flight.)
On September 16 2011, Burton’s lawyer told the court the act was done stupidly without thinking, after drinking with friends. She asked that Burton be discharged without conviction due to his age and future career plans. In 2007, Burton had arrived in New Zealand with his mother and sister, and all three are applying for residency. A conviction would affect his residency and his ability to find work and travel overseas. In turn, those restrictions could impact his ability to complete his studies in marine biology.
New Zealand does have a seven-year “clean slate” law, but his lawyer argued that Burton needed to complete his studies, apply for residency and find work before 2018.
From Auckland Now
UPDATE OCTOBER 27 2011: The judge agreed with Burton’s lawyer, that the consequences for Burton’s career and residency application outweighed the seriousness of his offense. The charges were dropped. More details are in an October 27 story in Auckland Now.
Risch and a second youth were apprehended June 20, 2010 after aiming a green laser beam at the aircraft six times. The second youth was released; Risch was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of small amount of marijuana. Risch was 18 at the time of his arrest.
He pleaded no contest on September 13 2010 to a felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work project and five years probation. On November 30, his probation was revoked for failure to complete the terms of his sentence. He was put on the Sacramento Police Department “Most Wanted” list on January 17 2011.
From the Sacramento Bee (Risch is #9 in this “Most Wanted” slideshow), Sacramento Police Department. News of the original arrest from News10.net and Wopular.com.
UPDATE September 2 2011: Apparently, Risch has not yet been apprehended. LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any indication of his removal from the Most Wanted list, or news items of any capture or arrest.
The three persons were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. They were held overnight. The teens were referred to the Youth Offending Team while the man received a caution.
From BBC News and the Daily Mail
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.
Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.
From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com
Two teens were arrested, one 17 and one 19, for endangering air safety. They face up to 10 years in prison.
From The Voice of Russia and Austrian Wings
From BBC News North East Wales
Roughly’s home is within a kilometer of Oshawa Airport
The teenager faces the following charges:
- Project Bright Light Source at Aircraft (Canadian Aviation Act)
- Interfere with Performance of Duties of any Crew Member (Aeronautics Act)
- Lessen the Ability of any Crew Member to Perform Duties (Aeronautics Act)
- Assault with a Weapon Causing Bodily Harm
- Mischief Endangering Life
- Common Nuisance
From 680 News and Oye! Times
UPDATE August 8 2011: Investigators announced the arrests of five more teens: Dale Branton, Alana Capesky, Andrew Capesky, Curtis Lee, and Aaron Mountjoy. Each person is 18 years old. The five teens were charged with the same counts as Roughly (see list above). According to the National Post, “Witness testimony and unspecified investigations led police to allege that the six accused took turns passing the laser around and aiming it at the helicopter.” From CityTV Toronto, Canoe.ca, DurhamRegion.com and the National Post
According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.
From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times
A police spokesperson said “I hope this sentence sends out the message to others that this sort of behaviour is not a game or a prank, it’s extremely serious .... they are committing a criminal offence.”
From Chronicle Live and BBC News
Police located and spoke with three teens: a boy (15) and two girls (14 and 16). So far, no charges have been filed in the July 22 2011 incident. An investigation is ongoing.
From Cambridge News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
UPDATE October 3 2011: The Cambridge News reports that the boy has been “reprimanded” and has been “dealt with by the police.” The reprimand was for a first offense. If there is a second offense, a final warning would be issued. On the third offense, the person would be charged and sent to court. From the Cambridge News.
Rincon was held on $25,000 bail. His lawyer argued, unsuccessfully, that Rincon did not present a danger to the community since he has no previous criminal record.
San Diego police released a video of the laser illumination.
From CBS8 and NBC San Diego. Both sources have video showing the illumination.
UPDATE, July 27 2011: Rincon’s trial was set for September 15, according to NBC San Diego.
UPDATE 2, September 15 2011: Rincon pleaded guilty to the felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. He will be sentenced on September 13 2012. If Rincon does not commit any new crimes during the one-year timespan, the charge will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor. That would reduce his maximum possible sentence from three years in prison (for a felony) to one year in county jail (for a misdemeanor). From Sign On San Diego.
The incident will be reported to the FAA laser database. There is no word of any additional charges that might be brought against the boy.
Fontana is near San Bernardino, and is about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
From the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
According to press reports, it is unclear if the man, Lenny Tavarez, knew that the laser could cause a crash. Tavarez was 19, and a recent high school graduate with no criminal record, when the October 2008 incident occurred. He was sentenced May 13 2011.
From Philly.com. A report of the original 2008 incident is at ABC 6.
Earlier, on June 2, two 14-year-old boys lased the aircraft, which had been searching for criminal suspects near West Denton. The on-board observer said “... a green light filled the cockpit. For a few seconds I couldn’t see anything, all I could see was a green light. My sight was obliterated and I was dazzled.”
The pilot was forced to break off their search in order to find the laser perpetrators. They landed at a nearby airfield. The two teens were arrested and may charged with recklessly acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft.
From the Evening Chronicle
The incident happened May 18 2011 in the skies over the West Midlands area near Birmingham; the boy is from Warley (Birmingham Mail) or Sandwell (BBC). According to police, the pilot “used his skills to position the aircraft away from the beams during the ground attack.”
From the Birmingham Mail and the BBC
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said “people didn’t realize what a hazard lasers can be to aircraft.”
From the New Zealand Herald
A police spokesperson did not want to comment about the incident because “he did not want to draw attention to it and risk copycat crimes.”
From the New Zealand Herald
UPDATE May 31 2011: Added the name of the second teenager, as reported by the Otago Daily Times
UPDATE 2 February 8 2012: The two persons appeared in court; a LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here
- A 16-year-old boy from Los Alamitos, for an incident in late April 2011, in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
- A 15-year-old boy from Pico Rivera, for an incident in December 2010, also in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
- A 25-year-old man from Maywood, for an incident in December 2010.
- A 25-year-old man from La Puente, for an incident in September 2010.
From 660 WORL, the Los Angeles Times and WalnutPatch
A police spokesperson called the event a “dangerous and irresponsible act... I urge parents whose children have laser pointers to remind them that engaging in this dangerous activity could lead to criminal charges.”
From the Essex-Middle River Patch and Southern Maryland Online
Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera
The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter
The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser
After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running
The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined £100 in youth court.
Click to play the YouTube video
The map shows the general area of the arrest:
York police said there have been four incidents so far in 2011, and more than 12 in 2010.
On Feb. 18 they put out a press release reminding parents that laser pointers are not a toy, and that charges can be brought for illuminating civilian and police aircraft. The charges include:
- Projection of a bright light source at an aircraft;
- Endangering the safety of an aircraft;
- Obstructing police;
- Mischief endangering life and;
- Assaulting police.
However, it turns out that this incident was caused by boys on bicycles, apparently acting without pre-planning and not knowing how the lasers would affect pilot vision. During a Feb. 2011 briefing to the SAE G10T laser safety group , FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said that the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories: “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.”
Hempen said that investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the Sydney "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. He noted that the youths’ local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area.
Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”
Based on a Feb. 1, 2011 presentation to SAE G10T.
A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”
The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.
NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.
19-year old Hidalgo Moreno and 17-year-old Nicholas Ramos were arrested in North Naples and were charged with “pointing a laser light at a vehicle or aircraft operator causing injury” a Florida felony with up to a five-year prison sentence, according to the Naples Daily News. The teens told deputies “they didn’t realize it was not legal to point a laser at the helicopter and they were just playing with it.” Read More...
15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
”This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.
The June 3 2009 incident caused the helicopter pilots to be “momentarily blinded” and to change course -- breaking off from assisting police in a burglary investigation. The helicopter then tracked the car from which the light came. Officers on the ground stopped the vehicle and found Wells and a laser inside. During an interview with FBI agents in January 2010, "the defendant admitted that he pointed a green laser at the helicopter, which he knew was a police helicopter," according to the plea agreement, which says "he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." In July 2010, Wells pled guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft.
From the Los Angeles Times; also at Gawker, Palm Springs Desert Sun and KESQ TV. Note: Sources differ on Wells’ age at sentencing; some say he was 19, others say he was 20. Sources also differ on the maximum penalty possible for interference with an operator of an aircraft; some say 3.5 years is the maximum, others say 20 years. And, sources differ on the date of the guilty plea; some say July 2010, others say September 2010.
Wallace said he was “just being stupid” and that he had owned the green laser pointer for only a week before the Dec. 17 incident.
From the St. Petersburg Times
It happened early in the morning of January 28 2010, near International Drive and Interstate 4. The pilot was forced to break away from a law enforcement call, to avoid the “potentially blinding light”. An observer in the helicopter was able to track the laser to a “carload of young men” traveling on I-4. Other law enforcement officers stopped the car and arrested Azevedo.
News reports state “this is the fourth case of this type of crime in recent months. Last month [Dec. 2009] the Direct TV blimp was lasered on its final approach to Orlando Executive Airport after covering the Champs Bowl game in Orlando.”
Ben Philip Vout targeted a KLM flight coming in to land with 40 passengers at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northeast England, in August 2008. He also shone the device at a police helicopter sent to investigate.
Vout, 19, and from Heslop Street in Thornaby had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Teesside Crown Court was told that the KLM flight had to be landed by the co-pilot.
From BBC News
The pilot was quoted as saying "Dennis has learned how dangerous this type of incident can be, and I hope that others will understand the same lesson."
Full story, with photo of the meeting, from BBC News
Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
More details from The Columbus Dispatch
Air traffic controllers had to close one flight approach late on Friday, after up to four people targeted planes with lasers in an apparently co-ordinated attack. Pilots reported a number of green lasers were trained on their planes for about 15 minutes, from 10.30pm (AEDT). The lasers appeared to have originated from the Bexley area, in south-western Sydney.
"This was the worst attack in our experience," Air Services Australia spokesman Bryan Nicholson has told Fairfax News. "It was described by the pilots as a cluster attack which implies some sort of co-ordination or organisation."
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said such laser attacks on planes were increasing in frequency. "There are five to six reports every week around Australia," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told Fairfax. "It is extremely dangerous as it can temporarily blind a pilot or distract them as they are coming in to land."
NSW Police Minister David Campbell vowed to change the law to classify powerful laser beams as illegal weapons. "These gutless and cowardly attacks have to be stopped," he said. "I am preparing a proposal to cabinet to consider making these items a prohibited weapon."
The maximum penalty for shining a laser at a plane is two years in jail.
From the Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald
*2011 UPDATE: Investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. It might be noted that their local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area. In a Feb. 2011 presentation to the SAE G10T group, attended by LaserPointerSafety.com, FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories. “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.” Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”
The story noted that “at least six other people have been busted for pointing lasers at aircraft in the Sacramento area over the past several months.”
From CBS13 news in Sacramento, CA