A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter

A Bakersfield, California man wrote a public letter of apology, stating that he “paid dearly” for aiming a laser pointer on September 11 2014 that caused eye pain for a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot.

According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”

On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:

I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.

I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.

I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.

For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.

From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.

UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.

On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)

Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.

As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”

Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.

US: 15 month prison sentence for California man who aimed laser at sheriff's helicopter

Mario Deleon Lopez, a 35-year-old Santa Ana (California) man who intentionally aimed a laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, was sentenced August 23 2016 to 15 months in federal prison.

On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”

The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.

“This defendant knew that pointing the laser at the helicopter could cause the pilot blindness and endanger those operating the aircraft, but committed the crime anyway,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a senseless crime that warrants the sentence imposed by the court.”

United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, said the offense was a “distraction” to the people in the air and that “people could die.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California

US: "Star Shower" home laser projector interferes with aircraft

A laser projector sold for home use to replace or augment Christmas lights has caused interference with at least six aircraft from November 18 to December 6 2015.

Star Shower laser projector head
The “Star Shower” laser projector, sold for $40 in stores including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS during the 2015 Christmas season. Details on the potential hazard are
here.

On December 3 2015, a commercial airplane at 13,000 feet altitude reported being illuminated by what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.” The light was traced to a home 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A pilot who was not involved told CBSDFW that likely the homeowner was asked to re-aim or remove the display, to prevent beams from going in the air. According to the news station, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said was the first case they had heard of, involving holiday laser lights.

However, NBC Los Angeles reported on an earlier incident. On November 18 2015, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sent a “distress call” to Sacramento police after being illuminated with laser light. A homeowner was advised to be more careful with the beam location. (It is not known why the FAA was not aware of this earlier incident.) Here is the NBC Los Angeles video:



On December 6 2015, three aircraft reported laser lights which were traced to a holiday display at at home three miles from Kansas City International airport. The homeowner told police he had “no idea he was endangering the public”

From CBSDFW, NBC Los Angeles, KSHB Kansas City. For much more information on the device and its potential hazards, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

US: One year in jail plus 3 years probation for Calif. teen who aimed laser at aircraft

Enrique Felix Gomez pleaded no contest September 14 2015 to aiming a high-powered green laser at an aircraft, and then at Los Angeles County fire and police helicopters on February 14 2015. Gomez, of Gardenia Calif., was sentenced November 2 2015 to one year in jail and three years probation.

From
MyNewsLA.com

US: Two arrested for aiming laser at LA sheriff's helicopter

Two persons were arrested for aiming a laser at a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s helicopter at about 11:30 pm on August 11 2015.

The helicopter crew, who were on a training mission, were able to trace the beam to a home in Agoura Hills, California. Arrested were 31-year-old Christopher Cooper and 33-year-old Tanjelina Meredith. They were charged with suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft, a felony.

From CBS Los Angeles

US: UPDATED - Bakersfield man indicted for lasing police helicopter and possessing seven bombs

A Bakersfield (Calif.) man was indicted July 16 2015 by a federal grand jury for aiming a green laser pointer at a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter. The device was key-activated and was labeled “Laser 301.” He faces up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, was also charged with possessing seven “cricket bombs,” made by filling an empty CO2 cartridge with gunpowder or flash powder, and attaching a fuse. If convicted, Sahagun would face an additional ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California press release dated July 21 2015

UPDATED - April 18 2016: Sahagun was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty on January 11 2016. From Bakersfield.com

US: Appeals court overturns 14-year sentence for Californian Sergio Rodriguez

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 24 2015 overturned the 14-year conviction of Sergio Rodriguez.

On August 25 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend repeatedly aimed a $8.00 green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced on two charges; one with a penalty of 5 years in prison and the other with a 14-year sentence. (According to an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com, 8 of the 14 years were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.)

Rodriguez received 5 years in prison on a charge of aiming the laser at an aircraft (18 U.S.C. § 39A). This sentence was upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that “the evidence showed that [Rodriguez] was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night - a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.” Silverman added that this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.”

But the 14-year sentence was overturned on the charge of willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety (18 U.S.C. § 32). Silverman wrote that this conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”

The judges referenced an April 30 2015 decision in United States v. Gardenhire. In this case, judges said that even if a person knows that a laser is dangerous when pointed directly at someone’s eyes, they may not know the “bright light” danger miles away to a pilot operating at nighttime.

Silverman noted that to uphold a reckless endangerment charge, prosecutors would have to show that “similarly situated defendants, or even average people, understand how laser beams operate.” Just aiming at a helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.”

From Courthouse News Service and Ars Technica. The full decision of the court is reprinted below, click on the “Read More…” link.

UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).

This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service
Click to read more...

US: California man charged in 2014 helicopter lasing

A 24-year-old man from Moreno Valley, California was charged May 18 2015 in federal court with aiming a green laser beam at a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. Miguel Avalos will be arraigned June 24 2015. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The incident happened February 10 2014. The helicopter was helping to locate an Alzheimer’s patient. The green laser light caused the pilot “to become momentarily dazed by the intense light and caused him to lose the abiity to see outside the cockpit’s windows.”

From Inland News Today

US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk

A federal appeals court in California struck down a 30-month sentence given to Adam Gardenhire in March 2013 for aiming a laser pointer at an Cessna jet and police helicopter. Gardenhire was 18 at the time of the March 2012 laser strikes. The April 30 2015 decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit found that prosecutors had not presented evidence of “reckless endangerment” of aircraft.

Adam Gardenhire laser
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.”

Click to read more...

US: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession

Two men from Tehachapi, California (about 35 miles southeast of Bakersfield) were arrested May 5 2014 for aiming a laser at an aircraft. In addition, drugs were found at the residence where the laser came from.

The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.

A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.

Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.

From Tehachapinews.com

UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. men indicted for separate laser-pointing incidents on helicopters

On March 26 2015, a federal grand jury indicted two California men for aiming green laser beams at law enforcement helicopters. In both cases, the air crews involved experienced vision difficulties.

Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno

On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.

However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)

Pic 2015-04-11 at 12.49.13 PM
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.

When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.

Click to read more...

US: San Diego police let off 2 teens who aimed laser at Southwest flight and police helicopter

San Diego police did not charge two teenagers who pointed a green laser at a Southwest Airlines flight and a San Diego police helicopter at about 10:30 pm local time on April 1 2015.

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

US: Pilot has "burning sensation", visits doctor after being hit near Oakland

The pilot in a traffic-reporting aircraft had green laser light flashed in his eye, while over San Ramon, California at 6:40 am local time on April 2 2015. He felt a "minor burning sensation" from the "very, very strong" laser beam. After landing at Livermore Airport, the pilot had his eyes checked by a doctor. The pilot’s eyes appeared unharmed, but the doctor recommended that the pilot see a specialist.

ABC 7 News later reported that the pilot was “okay now”, and that the source is believed to be an industrial park in San Ramon.

The California Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified. The FBI sent out an aircraft to try to find the laser source.

The pilot was flying for radio station KCBS in the San Francisco Bay area. San Ramon is about 20 miles west of Oakland. The KCBS traffic reporter in the plane, Ron Cervi, said he did not notice the laser until the pilot turned to him and said he had been struck by a laser beam “right in the eye.”

From KCBS and ABC 7 News

US: Three Delta flights illuminated by lasers at LAX

Three Delta Airlines flights were illuminated by laser light when near or landing at Los Angeles International Airport on January 4 2015. All three landed safely.

  • Flight 1211, a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike inbound at 2,500 feet while westbound seven miles east of LAX around 4:45 p.m.
  • At the exact same time Flight 34, also a Boeing 767, reported a laser strike outbound at 14,000 feet while northeast bound about 12 miles northeast of LAX.
  • Later in the evening, Flight 984, a Boeing 737, reported a laser strike inbound while heading west at 6,000 feet approximately 25 miles east of LAX around 10:30 p.m.

An FAA spokesperson said that from January 1 through December 19 2014, there were 101 laser strikes around Los Angeles.

From Ars Technica and NBC Los Angeles

US: Coast Guard helicopter in California targeted by laser

From a U.S. Coast Guard press release:


A Coast Guard helicopter flying over Arcata [California] was targeted by an individual with a laser Friday evening [September 19 2014].

The MH-65D Dolphin crew was returning from an operation in southern California when the incident occurred. The laser shined directly in the eyes of both pilots and appeared to come from Janes Road at Upper Bay Road in Arcata.

Lieutenant Josh Smith was one of the pilots. "We were at approximately 1500 feet returning to the base when a green laser shined from left to right across the cockpit, shining in both our eyes (the pilots). We tried not to look at the laser, but flying on the instruments while looking away from it (the laser) is very difficult." Coast Guard pilots often fly solely by looking at the cockpit instruments without outside visual cues, but are trained to look away from a laser targeting the aircraft to protect their eyesight. Even if not directly hit by a laser, being forced to look away from the instruments can result in the pilot literally flying blind.
Click to read more...

US: Two California brothers arraigned for disrupting sheriff's helicopter with laser

Brothers Abrahim Rashid Khan, 20, and Shaun Ahmed Khan, 18, pleaded not guilty on September 8 2014 in Riverside (Ca.) County Superior Court to one misdemeanor charge each of maliciously pointing a laser at an aircraft.

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

US: UPDATED - Oakland teen indicted for aiming laser at CHP helicopter

Christian Palomino, 18, was indicted August 28 2014 by a federal grand jury for knowingly aiming a laser at an aircraft.

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, an 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 the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”

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

UPDATED December 2 2015 — Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft. From the Contra Costa Times

US: UPDATED - Guilty plea for Fresno man who aimed 50 times at CHP airplane

A Fresno, California man who illuminated a California Highway Patrol plane up to 50 times pleaded guilty on June 3 2014. He will be sentenced August 25.

David Walter Fee, 22, was charged with aiming a powerful green laser pointer at Air 43, a CHP aircraft. The pilot suffered temporary blindness and the aircraft was forced to break away from investigating a burglary in progress. Also charged along with Fee was Andrew Zarate, 20, also of Fresno. The disposition of his case is not known.

Fee faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when sentenced.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Fresno Office, California Highway Patrol, and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.

From the Fresno Bee and the April 10 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about the indictment of Fee and Zarate.

UPDATED August 11 2014 - Zarate pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane. He was scheduled to be sentenced November 3 2014. Fee pleaded guilty to the same offense in June and was scheduled to be sentenced August 25 2014. From an August 11 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about Zarate’s guilty plea.

UPDATED September 29 2014 - Fee was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From KMJ Now.

UPDATED November 3 2014 - Zarate was sentenced to one year in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From Ars Technica and ABC30.

US: California man pleads guilty to 6 months of lasing a police helicopter

On May 12 2014, Bakersfield Calif. resident Brett Lee Scott, 26, pleaded guilty to aiming laser pointers at a Kern County Sheriff helicopter over a six-month period. The lasers emitted powerful green and purple laser beams.

As a result, the pilots of the Air-1 helicopter suffered flash blindness that lasted a few minutes, causing disorientation. The pilots were ultimately able to pinpoint the origin of the beams and, with the help of patrol deputies, identified Scott as a suspect.

Sentencing for Scott is set for July 21 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California

US: Two years in prison for 24-year-old girlfriend of Calif. man given 14-year sentence

In the summer of 2012, a Fresno Police helicopter was repeatedly struck with a green laser beam, while investigating reports of earlier laser strikes on a the “Air George” medical helicopter. Two persons were arrested, a man and his girlfriend. On March 10 2014, Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison. An analysis showed that eight years were imposed for the lasing and an additional six years were due to his prior criminal record.

On May 12 2014, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24, was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. An FBI special agent said ““Coleman and Rodriguez demonstrated outrageous and willful disregard for the safety of aviators, Air George’s patients, and the public.”

In imposing sentence, Judge Lawrence O’Neill considered the opinion of Dr. Leon McLin, a Senior Research Optometrist for the Air Force Research Laboratory who testified at trial, that the laser pointer that Coleman used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and, indirectly, death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference.

Judge O'Neill found the high‑powered laser pointer was a dangerous weapon, and referring to the potential for a crash resulting from the pilots’ impaired vision stated, "I physically shudder to think of what could have happened."

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California

US: Woman arrested for pointing laser at sheriff's helicopter

A teenager aimed a green laser beam from a moving vehicle, towards a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s patrol helicopter on February 27 2014. She was arrested and could face up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Jenny Gutierrez, 19, was captured after the pilot followed Gutierrez to her home, and reported the location to sheriff’s deputies.

From KABC

US: LA-area man charged with aiming laser pointer at sheriff's dept. helicopter

A Los Angeles-area man was charged on March 6 2014 with one count of aiming a laser pointer at a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopter, a felony with a penalty of up to five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

On November 17 2013, the helicopter was patrolling over the Boyle Heights area, which Wikipedia describes as a "working class, heavily Latino, youthful neighborhood of almost a hundred thousand residents east of Downtown Los Angeles." The aircraft was struck several times by a green laser beam that illuminated the cockpit.

The source was tracked to a home where George Sam Elali, 31, was arrested on state charges. After an investigation by the FBI and the sheriff's department, the state charges were dropped and Elali was indicted February 14 2014 by a federal grand jury.

From CBS Los Angeles

US: Search for laser leads to arrests on drug and other charges

A search for the persons who aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter on March 8 2014 has led to the arrest of two Bakersfield (Calif.) men on drug and other charges. The arrests were announced March 16 2014 by a joint laser strike task force consisting of the FBI, Bakersfield police, and Kern County deputies.

Timothy Wilson, 46, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and of narcotics paraphernalia, and resisting or delaying arrest. Patrick Florez, 45, was arrested on suspicion of stolen property and false license plate tabs.

The strike force confiscated a stolen motorcycle, quantities of methamphetamine, and narcotics-related material, paraphernalia and a scale.

No laser was found and the investigation is continuing.

From the Bakersfield Californian

US: Analysis of Sergio Rodriguez's 14-year sentence for lasing Fresno police helicopter

The following is an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com of the 14-year prison sentence given to Sergio Patrick Rodriguez on March 10 2014, for interfering with a police helicopter by hitting it with a laser beam about seven times.

Prior to this, the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident was four years,
handed down in January 2010 to Jamie Allen Downie. For more information, see the page Sentences for laser offenses and click the tags on the left side to find jail terms of 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-24 months, 25-36 months, 37-48 months, and over 4 years.

UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.

Summary


Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of Rodriguez’s sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.

In addition, the government told the judge that “[s]entencing Rodriguez to a substantial prison term will send an important deterrent message that could not be more timely.”

The government stated at one point that Rodriguez should receive 20 years to life imprisonment based on its analysis, but they would be satisfied with 14 years.

Rodriguez’s lawyer countered that the guidelines had been misapplied and the sentence should be only 57 months (4 3/4 years). The lawyer contended that Rodriguez was in his backyard, playing with the laser to see how far it could go and he had no knowledge of laser/aircraft hazards.
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - California man sentenced to 14 years for aiming 65 mW laser at Fresno police helicopter

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez of Clovis, California, was sentenced March 10 2014 to 14 years in prison for interfering with an aircraft, plus 5 years in prison for aiming an $8.00 green laser pointer at an aircraft. The two sentences will be served concurrently; e.g. a maximum of 14 years. According to Rodriguez’s lawyer, he would serve a minimum of 12 years, factoring in a 15 percent sentence reduction for good behavior and a one-year credit for time served.

The 14-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for lasing an aircraft, anywhere in the world. Rodriguez’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued that a term of 57 months (4 3/4 years) would be “harsh, but ... is arguably a just punishment.” The previous longest sentence was 4 years for Jamie Allen Downie, sentenced in January 2010.

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez laser
Sergio Patrick Rodriguez

Federal sentencing guidelines take into account the crime itself as well as the defendant’s criminal history. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said at sentencing that Rodriguez was “a walking crime spree.” Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of the sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.

A more detailed analysis of the 14-year sentence is here.

The Rodriguez case began August 25 2012 when a helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California was illuminated by a green laser. Fresno Police Department’s Air 1 was sent to investigate.

It was repeatedly and deliberately struck by the light. The beam was traced back to Rodriguez, now 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23. Pilots from both helicopters said the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.

The laser’s power was later measured as 65 milliwatts. This is 13 times the 5 mW limit for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. This 13x power increase leads to a 3.6 times increase in the distance at which Rodriguez’s laser was a hazard (see Note 1).

Click to read more...

US: Calif. man who "can't help himself from doing stupid things" sentenced to 21 months for lasing police helicopter

(The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. It was also released by the FBI, Sacramento Division.)

Clovis Man Sentenced For Aiming Laser At Sheriff Helicopter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, January 27, 2014

Docket #: 1:13-CR-108 LJO

FRESNO, Calif. — Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23, of Clovis, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Mahaffey’s sentence follows his guilty plea last November. According to court documents, Mahaffey deliberately tracked and struck Eagle 1, a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, with a powerful red laser while the aircraft was assisting ground units on a call for a domestic disturbance. As a result, the pilot was distracted by the intense light and forced to break away from the call. The pilot reported the laser strikes to Air Traffic Control at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and, with the help of the Clovis Police Department, was able to locate the source of the laser and identify Mahaffey as the suspect. In pleading guilty, Mahaffey admitted he knew it was a crime to point the laser at an aircraft but stated he, “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. residents convicted of aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter

A jury found two residents of Clovis, California guilty on December 20 2013 of aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno Police helicopter. In addition, one of the pair, 25-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, was also found guilty of attempting to interfere with the helicopter.

On August 25 2012, an emergency transport helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California reported being illuminated by laser beams. The police helicopter was sent to investigate. They too were struck. Rodriguez and Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were located and arrested.

During the three-day December 2013 trial, pilots from both helicopters said that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference. Evidence presented indicated that the laser was “13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices.”

Sentencing was scheduled for March 10 2014. The interference charge has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aiming charges each have a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.

From KERO ABC. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered the March 2013 indictment. The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is here.

UPDATED March 10 2014: Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison, on the charge of interfering with an aircrew. Coleman will be sentenced May 12 2014 and could receive up to five years on the aiming charge.

UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Assuming the article meant the laser was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for laser pointers, then the laser would have been 65 milliwatts. (The maximum for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. is 4.99 mW; there is no maximum for hand-held laser devices which are not marketed as pointers.) For a standard divergence of 1 milliradian, a 65 mW laser has the following hazard distances: It can be a nominal eye hazard up to 190 feet from the laser, causes flashblindness up to 890 feet away, causes interfering glare up to 4,000 feet away, and is a distraction up to 39,600 feet (7.5 miles) away.

US: Sacramento man arrested for aiming laser pointer at police helicopter

A 20-year-old man was arrested December 8 2013 on a felony charge of discharging a laser at a Sacramento Police Department helicopter.

At around 10:40 that evening, the pilot said the aircraft was “getting a laser hit” from the ground. The laser’s path easily led back to the backyard of a home. Ground officers said Justin James Nesbitt told them he wanted to see if the laser could hit the aircraft.

Nesbitt’s bail was set at $75,000.

Justin James Nesbitt laser Sacramento
Justin James Nesbitt


From CBS Sacramento

US: Two California teens arrested for lasing CHP airplane

Two teenagers from Roseville, California (about 15 miles northeast of Sacramento) were arrested on October 19 2013 for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol airplane. Brian Levenstein, 18, and an unnamed male, 14, were charged. They may face additional felony charges.

Brian Levenstein laser
Brian Levenstein


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

US: UPDATED - Man arrested in San Diego, police helicopter pilot is "recovering"

A 25-year-old man was arrested for repeatedly shining a red laser at a San Diego Police Helicopter at about 10:30 pm on September 17 2013. The pilot was temporarily blinded and was reported to be “recovering” after the incident. He was able to inform ground officers of the suspect’s location. The suspect did admit to aiming the laser at the helicopter.

San Diego laser
The name of the suspect was not immediately provided.


From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com

UPDATED September 19 2013: The man arrested was identified as Abel Becerril. A news story from ABC 10 includes video from the ABLE helicopter. There were two men in a parking lot, who hit the helicopter more than seven times. They then separately ran away, tossing the laser pointer during their run. Becerril will be charged with a felony. According to San Diego police, laserings of their helicopter happen “several times a week.” From ABC 10news.com (story, video and still photo shown below).

San Diego laser from helicopter

US: California man arrested for shining red laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 22-year-old was arrested in Hemet, California (in the San Jacinto Valley) for suspicion of aiming a laser at a Riverside County sheriff’s helicopter. On September 8 2013, at around 9 pm, a red laser was aimed repeatedly at the helicopter. Hemet police officers found Mariano Angel Godinez at his home where he admitted the laser illumination.

In addition to the laser charge, Godinez was also arrested for drug possession and for disobeying a court order. Bail was set at $25,000.

Mariano Angel Godinez laser
Mariano Angel Godinez


From PE Bloggers

US: California man arrested for shining laser at CHP helicopter

Emilio Montenegro, 28, was arrested August 20 2013 for aiming a laser into the cockpit of a California Highway Patrol helicopter that was flying over San Miguel, in the central coast county of San Luis Obispo. Montenegro is charged with one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft and four unrelated warrants. He has a history of court charges including possession of controlled substances.

Emilio Montenegro laser
Emilio Montenegro


From the Tribune

US: Guilty plea for L.A. tourist who lased two helicopters

On September 6 2012, Isaias Gonzalez, a 25-year-old tourist from Denver, pointed a green laser beam at a KTLA news helicopter flying over Los Angeles. A L.A. County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was sent to investigate and it too was lased.

On July 25 2013 Gonzalez pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally aiming his laser at the two aircraft. He could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, scheduled for December 2013.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, Gonzalez is the second person prosecuted by their office for violating the Feb. 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim at or near the path of an aircraft. (The first was Adam Gardenhire, sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in March 2013.)

From the Los Angeles Times

US: UPDATED - Pilot of crashed 777 first says he was blinded by a light; then retracts any vision effects

The pilot of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed July 6 2013 on approach to San Francisco International Airport, told U.S. investigators that he was temporarily blinded by a bright light when 500 feet above the ground (approximately 34 seconds before impact). The Boeing 777 aircraft crashed at 11:28 am local (PDT) time. Thus, it was daylight when the bright light flash occurred.

During a press conference on July 10, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the pilot’s statement. Deborah Hersman was asked specifically if it could have been a laser pointed from the ground. She replied “We really don’t know at this point what it could have been. We need to look into it. We need to understand what he’s talking about. We may need to follow up with him.”

Hersman described the flash as only “a temporary issue”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

From USA Today (initial story; story about laser hazards), SFGate, and ABC News.

UPDATED July 11 2013: NTSB chair Deborah Hersman gave additional details indicating that the light was not a laser and did not interfere with the pilot’s vision.

Click to read more...

US: San Diego-area man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

Fernando Arrollado, 34, was arrested June 8 2013 for illuminating a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department helicopter five times with a green laser beam. He was jailed on five counts of discharging a laser light at an aircraft.

Arrollado’s location, on an apartment balcony in the city of La Mesa, was identified by officers using an onboard forward-looking infrared camera. They called in the La Mesa police. Arrollado admitted shining a 20 milliwatt laser at the helicopter and was arrested.

From ABC 10 News

US: Two arrested for aiming laser pointer at Pasadena police helicopter

Two men were arrested May 6 2013 for aiming a laser beam at a Pasadena (CA) Police Department helicopter that was responding to an apparently unrelated burglary alarm. As the aircraft was checking the area, a laser beam was shone at the helicopter. The pilot and observer, who were not injured by the light, directed ground units to the source. Officers found 30-year-old Joel Reyna and 32-year-old Aram Yashu, both of Alhambra. One of the suspects was on parole, which allowed officers to perform a warrantless search of the area. They found a laser pointer, drug paraphernalia and evidence of credit card fraud.

Charges were filed for obstructing a flying aircraft, as well as other charges. The suspects were held in lieu of $25,000 bail. No evidence of burglary was found at the site of the alarm, and the suspects are not believed to have been involved in any burglary.

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

US: UPDATED - 30 month sentence for California teen Adam Gardenhire

Adam Gardenhire, 19, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on March 25 2013, for aiming a “commercial grade” green laser pointer at an airplane and a police helicopter in California. The crime has a maximum prison term of up to five years. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month penalty, but U.S. DIstrict Judge Stephen Wilson said he wanted to send a message that Gardenhire’s behavior was “reckless and very dangerous.”

As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.

Adam Gardenhire laser
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.

Pic 2012-04-02 at 9.41.32 AM
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.

US: UPDATED - 3 men, 1 woman indicted in 3 separate California incidents

On March 21 2013, a federal grand jury in California indicted four individuals who were involved in three separate incidents of aiming lasers at aircraft. In all three cases, charges were filed under both the 2012 Federal law making it illegal to aim pointers at aircraft or their flight path, and also under statutes making it illegal to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft.

One of the defendants’ lawyers said the charges were overkill. KGET reported that David Torres, attorney for Brett Lee Scott, said “The penalty in the federal system with respect to this particular crime, doesn't fit at all. And, I think that when you look historically as to why this particular crime was enacted, it was enacted because of folks like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and folks that have these laser-guided missiles, things of that nature, where they didn't want folks pointing guided lasers up in the air, things of that nature. But, here you have teenagers doing this from time to time or other individuals who are unaware of what the law is.”

Indicted were:
  • Brett Lee Scott, 25, of Bakersfield CA. Alleged to have flashblinded sheriff’s office helicopter pilots for “minutes”, and causing disorientation. The laser strikes came over a 3-month period.
  • Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, aka Javier Rodrigues, 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, both of Clovis CA. Alleged to have deliberately targeted a medical helicopter from the Children’s Hospital Central California, as well as a police helicopter sent to investigate.
  • Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 22, of Clovis CA. Alleged to have aimed a red laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter, causing a law enforcement mission to be called off.

Additional details are in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, reprinted below (click the “Read More…” link).

From KGET and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California

UPDATED November 4 2013: Charles Conrad Mahaffey pleaded guilty to the federal charge. He will be sentenced on January 27 2014.

UPDATED December 20 2013: Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was found guilty of attempting to interfere with a police helicopter. He and his girlfriend Jennifer Lorraine Coleman were also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer at the police helicopter. They will be sentenced March 10 2014.

UPDATED May 12 2014: Jennifer Lorraine Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Brett Lee Scott pleaded guilty and will be sentenced July 21 2014. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Calif. woman again points laser at public safety vehicles

On November 2 2012, Irene Marie Levy of San Jacinto, California, was arrested for aiming a laser, first at a police cruiser and then at a sheriff’s department helicopter sent to look for the laser source. She faces a felony charge for the helicopter incident, and a misdemeanor charge of pointing a laser at law enforcement.

Levy, 32, had previously been arrested for a June 30 2012 incident where Levy aimed a laser at least two separate times at a fire truck. She pleaded guilty on October 9 2012, was referred to mental health court, and was released on two years’ probation.

Irene Marie Levy laser pic2
Irene Marie Levy


From the Press-Enterprise (original Nov. 2 arrest and Nov. 8 follow-up story). The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of her fire truck arrest is here.

US: Camp Pendleton Marines ask public to stop lasing their noisy helicopters

Marine helicopters flying out of Camp Pendleton, California have been targeted multiple times by lasers from the nearby community of Fallbrook, in northern San Diego County. In an attempt to stop the lasings, a Marine officer discussed the incidents and the hazards of lasers with a local reporter for the North County Times, on August 7 2012.

Camp Pendleton’s Munn Field is used almost exclusively by helicopters, primarily on training missions. The chopper noise is “a backdrop to daily life in Fallbrook”, writes reporter Tom Pfingsten. He implied that perhaps someone annoyed by the noise is targeting the helicopters.

The air traffic control officer for Munn Field told Pfingsten that the lasers can potentially damage eyes and that pilots may not be able to see in the cockpit, especially when crews are wearing night vision goggles that bloom when hit by laser light.

Pfingsten wrote that “the Marines seem really worried about … losing one of their pilots to a random act of vandalism.” While the base files reports with the FAA and the Fallbrook sheriff, military police cannot be sent to find the laser source. So they are basically “asking nicely” that the public help stop whoever is lasing the military helicopters.

From the North County Times

US: 22-year-old near San Diego may be charged with lasing sheriff's helicopter

A laser was pointed at a sheriff’s helicopter flying over the community of 4S Ranch, in San Diego County, California on July 31 2012. Beams did not enter the windows of the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to a home where a 22-year-old man was found with a “commercial grade green laser”. The district attorney’s office has the case and may bring felony charges of aiming a laser at an aircraft.

A sheriff’s spokesperson said of the laser light beam “It’s not different, really, than if you were to shoot an officer.” He said the lasers can cause permanent eye injuries and can cause a crash.

Since January 2011, there were approximately six laser incidents in the county. No crew members were injured, according to the spokesperson.

From Rancho Bernardo Patch and 10News.com

US: Officer injured by cocaine user in Pasadena laser incident

A 23-year-old man aimed a laser at a Pasadena (CA) police helicopter on May 24 2012 as it flew over San Gabriel. Police said “it was an intentional act [lasting] for minutes.” During the tracking, the tactical flight officer on board was reported to have received an unspecified injury. Ground units were directed to the location, where Rafael Juarez was arrested. He appeared to be on cocaine and had suspected cocaine on him. Juarez was charged with two felonies: discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of a controlled substance. He was held on $25,000 bail and faces potential federal charges.

This was the ninth laser incident reported by the Pasadena police in 2012. A police statement indicated that the helicopter crew had protective eyewear, but was not wearing them when the laser illuminated the aircraft.

After the helicopter landed at the Pasadena Heliport, the officer was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital for evaluation. Police said the officer was “not seriously injured” and that there was no permanent damage.

From KABC, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Pasadena Sun

US: Lodi CA man quickly captured thanks to airborne video

Lodi police released a video showing how a Lodi man was captured just four minutes after he began targeting a California Highway Patrol aircraft with a green laser pointer on April 29 2012.

Lodi police laser video - visible
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.

Lodi police laser video - ir
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).


The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.

Charles Brill laser


Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.

Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."

From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.

US: 2 arrested for lasing Glendale CA police helicopter

A Glendale, California police helicopter was illuminated by a red laser beam three times on April 27 2012. The beam was easily traced to two men in a home’s backyard. 18-year-old Dylan Chavez and 20-year-old Jason Phillips were arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft. As of April 30, they were not charged under the new federal anti-laser law signed Feb. 14 by President Obama.

From the La Cañada Valley Sun

US: UPDATED - Calif. teen charged under new federal law; faces 10 year prison term

Adam Gardenhire, 18, was charged on April 18 2012 with lasing a Cessna Citation jet and a Pasadena police helicopter on March 29, as previously reported on LaserPointerSafety.com. He was charged with two federal counts of aiming a “commercial-grade”* green laser pointer at an aircraft, under a provision of the FAA reauthorization legislation signed by President Barack Obama in mid-February 2012. According to news reports, this is the second U.S. case where a person has been charged under the new law. The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.

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.

Adam Gardenhire laser
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.

US: Another Calif. teen lases another police helicopter

One day after an 18-year-old was arrested in North Hollywood for lasing a jet and a police helicopter, a 16-year-old Glendale boy was arrested for illuminating a Glendale police helicopter with a green laser.

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

US: UPDATED - Calif. teen lases private jet, then police helicopter

A teenager on March 29 2012 aimed a green laser first at a private jet landing at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, then at a Pasadena police helicopter looking for the laser source. The 18-year-old was quickly located and arrested in North Hollywood, about 1.5 miles from the airport. He admitted aiming the laser at aircraft.

Pic 2012-04-02 at 9.41.32 AM
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.

US: Sacramento-area man arrested St. Patrick's Day for shining green laser at CHP helicopter

A 49-year-old man was arrested March 17 2012 for aiming a green laser beam at a California Highway Patrol helicopter as it flew over the Sacramento area. The crew was able to direct Sheriff’s patrol units to an apartment in Carmichael, about 8 miles from downtown Sacramento, where David Sughroue was found with a laser pointer.

David Sughroue laser
David Sughroue


He was arrested on a felony charge of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Bail was set at $50,000.

From CBS Sacramento and News 10 ABC

US: 16-year-old arrested in San Diego for two laser pointing incidents

A 16-year-old boy was arrested by San Diego police, after two incidents of a red laser being pointed at a police helicopter. The first happened January 18 2012, in the Shelltown neighborhood. Ground officers were not able to find the source of the laser. The same crew was patrolling eight days later, and was illuminated from the same location. This time, a teenager was arrested in a backyard. He was charged with one count of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

From the San Diego Union Tribune and 10News.com

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson final sentence: 10 days in jail, 3 years probation

Clark Gable III, grandson of the famed actor, was officially sentenced on January 12 2012 to 10 days in jail plus three years probation. He received one day’s credit for time already served.

He pleaded guilty on December 8 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer three times at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter in July. Gable had been expected to receive 200 hours on a work crew, in addition to the jail time. The TMZ.com report did not mention the 200 hours.

From TMZ.com and the Los Angeles Times. LaserPointerSafety.com has additional stories about Gable’s July 28 2011 lasing incident, his August 26 arraignment and his December 8 guilty plea.

US: Time served - 7 months - for Bakersfield CA man

A Bakersfield (CA) man was sentenced to time served, for aiming a green laser at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Jeffrey Lee Gentry, 33, had been in jail seven months. At his January 9 2012 sentencing he was also ordered to be on probation for one year. Gentry could have received a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

During the November 6 2010 incident, the helicopter was flying 500 feet above the ground when hit four times by the laser beam. The pilot said he had spots in his eyes for a few seconds. They were disoriented and were forced off course, according to a March 3 2011 press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Fresno.

From Bakersfield.com, KERN radio and Bakersfield Now

US: Laser leads Glendora police to illegal drugs

A man riding in a car aimed a green laser at a police helicopter. When ground units were sent to arrest the man, they also discovered the driver had under a gram of methamphetamine.

The January 3 2012 incident happened in Glendora, 23 miles east of Los Angeles. The police helicopter was near Citrus College when it was hit three or four times by a green laser beam aimed from a car. Ground officers stopped the car, found a laser pointer and arrested the passenger Jerrod Ferren, 31. He was charged with suspicion of using a laser light at the helicopter, and was held on $20,000 bail. During the stop, driver William Dixon, 26, was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence, and for possession of a controlled substance. Bail for Dixon was set at $10,000.

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

UPDATE: On January 4, Los Angeles TV channel KABC ran a two-minute segment about the Glendora laser arrest, and about laser illuminations in general:

Pic 2012-01-05 at 11.18.25 AM
Click the screenshot above to view the video report from KABC

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US: Teen may be charged in Pasadena laser illumination

A Pasadena (California) police helicopter was illuminated twice by laser light on December 28 2011 as it flew over Altadena. The pilot was able to locate the source. Ground officers identified a 15-year-old, who told them he was aiming at the helicopter. His laser pointer was confiscated.

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

US: Ventura County helicopter ends search due to laser danger

A Ventura County (California) Sheriff’s Department helicopter broke off a search for a gang shooting suspect, after being illuminated two times by a laser beam.

The December 27 2011 incident began as the aircraft was hovering 500 feet above the crime scene in Fillmore. A laser beam was aimed at the cockpit. The crew broke off to find the suspect, but was unable to locate them. The helicopter returned to the crime scene where a laser was once again pointed at them. The crew broke off once more. A potential suspect was identified, but ground units determined the person was not involved.

The crew then made the determination that due to the laser aimings it was too dangerous to fly. They ended both the search for the shooting suspect, and the search for the laser perpetrator.

A sheriff’s department spokesperson said there had been several previous laser illuminations of the helicopter in Fillmore. He was unsure whether the Dec. 27 incident was related, but said “I would hope they are related, because if they are not, that would mean there is more than one person doing it.”

From the Ventura County Star

UPDATE December 29 2011 (1:49 PM): An arrest has been made in this case. Torrey Phillips, 20, was arrested on December 28 on an outstanding felony warrant stemming from two criminal threats convictions. Deputies found a green laser in his possession. Bail was set at $40,000. The Ventura County Star story does not state how deputies linked Phillips with the previous evening’s lasing of the sheriff’s department helicopter.

Pic 2012-01-02 at 2.26.56 PM
It is about 1600 feet (ground distance) from the helicopter location (open red circle) to Phillips’ home where he was arrested (black square). Address information from
KEYT.

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US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours

Clark James Gable III pleaded guilty December 8 2011 to one felony count of “discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft.” In exchange for the guilty plea, other charges were dropped that could have put Gable in jail for three years. It is expected that prosecutors will ask for a 10 day jail sentence, plus 200 hours community service on a California Department of Transportation work crew. Gable’s sentencing will take place January 12 2012.

Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.

On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.

In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”

From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.

UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
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Click to read more...

US: Santa Ana man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A Santa Ana (CA) man was arrested October 18 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. The pilot did not report any injury.

Daniel Abraham Garcia laser
Daniel Abraham Garcia

Daniel Abraham Garcia, 24, was charged with suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft, a felony. Garcia told police he was “messing around” and did not know that pointing at an aircraft was illegal.

From the
Orange County Register, Silicon Valley Mercury News, and KABC News

US: Coast Guard helicopter distracted by laser after Calif. search and rescue mission

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was illuminated multiple times by a green laser on September 17 2011. It was returning from a search and rescue distress call when it was hit by the laser light south of Humboldt Bay. The Coast Guard said “the pilot at the controls was not affected by the laser and the aircraft remained under control.”

From
Military.com News

US: Calif. woman arrested for aiming at helicopter

Kimberly Rogers, 27, was arrested on September 23 2011 for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. She was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft and was being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Pic 2011-09-26 at 2.01.54 PM
Kimberly Rogers

The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.

The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 7.31.16 AM
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport

From the Los Angeles Times

US: Teen on Sacramento "Most Wanted" list for skipping probation

Sacramento police have put Jacob George Risch, 19, on their local “Most Wanted” list for failing to complete conditions of his probation for lasing a California Highway Patrol airplane.

Jacob Risch laser


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.

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads not guilty in laser incident; faces up to three years

Clark James Gable III, 22, was charged on August 23 2011 with three felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Gable, grandson of the famous actor, faces three years in prison if convicted.

The charges stem from an incident July 28 where Gable aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, temporarily flashblinding two officers on board.

From TMZ and Reuters

UPDATE August 26 2011: Gable pleaded not guilty to the charges at his August 26 arraignment. He was freed on $250,000 bail. His next court appearance will be September 8, at a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. From the Contra Costa Times

UPDATE December 8 2011: Gable pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. In return, other counts were dropped. At sentencing January 12 2012, prosecutors are expected to ask for a 10 day jail sentence plus 200 days on a work crew. See news item here.

UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
.

US: 1-watt blue laser used for first time, in Glendale illumination

A 1-watt blue laser was aimed twice at a Glendale CA police helicopter on August 14 2011. 30-year-old Avo Garabedian was arrested by ground units directed to his location.

From La Canada Valley Sun

ADDITIONAL INFO: This is the first aviation incident in which it is confirmed that a 1-watt blue handheld laser was used. LaserPointerSafety.com has learned that Garabedian used a Wicked Lasers Spyder III Arctic. This was the first widely sold 1-watt blue handheld laser; it received significant worldwide press attention when it was introduced in June 2010.

Below are some additional facts and links about this type of laser.Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson arrested for laser illumination of LAPD helicopter

Clark Gable III was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter on July 28 2011. The 22*-year-old was driving through Hollywood at the time. He told police that he tried to point at the famed Hollywood sign, but missed.

According to police spokeswoman Sara Faden, the LAPD helicopter pilots observed “a green laser light shining on them and at that time they requested additional ground units to come to the scene. They observed a vehicle with two occupants and they found the laser that was shined on the airship and they were both taken into custody."Click to read more...

US: San Diego teen faces three years; video will be evidence

A San Diego teenager admitted to police arresting him that he pointed a laser at a police helicopter on July 11 2011. Jose Gallardo Rincon, 18, gave officers his laser pointer. He was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. This felony carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.

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.

US: LA police arrest 20-year-old after series of incidents

An unnamed 20-year-old man was arrested July 12 2011 for aiming a laser pointer at a Los Angeles police helicopter. The green beam illuminated the pilot’s eyes.

A police spokesman said there had been reports of green laser beams pointed at LAPD and news helicopters in the Glassell Park area, in the previous two weeks. There was no immediate indication whether the arrested man was responsible.

From
DailyBreeze.com

US: UPDATED - Protective laser glasses help catch L.A. lasing suspects

Two Los Angeles men were arrested on multiple charges for lasing a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter on July 4 2011. Floyd Atkins, 22, and Alvaro Jimenez, 20, are also being investigated for a string of incidents over the past six months, where lasers were aimed at law enforcement helicopters and at airliners landing at Los Angeles International Airport.


“A” marks the arrest location, about 9 miles from Los Angeles International Airport

LaserPointerSafety.com initially reported this as a “sting” operation, based on an NBC LA report that “the LAPD ran a high-flying sting to pinpoint the location of their two attackers.” However, other news sources indicated that there was no pre-planned effort to draw out laser users. DailyBreeze.com quoted a police spokesman as saying that “a police helicopter on regular patrol was hit with a green laser, and the crew was able to pinpoint the general location of the beam.... A second flight crew that was replacing the first unit brought protective glasses with them based on the earlier reports. The second crew was soon hit with the same green laser, and reported to police on the ground the exact location of the laser.”

The LAPD is contacting the FBI. Additional state and federal charges may be filed.

From DailyBreeze.com, NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and KABC 7.

UPDATE July 28 2011: NoIR informs us that the glasses used were their “GlareShield” models. These were developed with input from LAPD pilots. More on laser protective eyewear for pilots is here.

UPDATE July 26 2012: Floyd Atkins was found guilty of one felony count of pointing laser beams at a helicopter. He will be sentenced August 3 and faces up to three years in prison. Alvaro Jimenez pleaded no contest to the same charge earlier in 2012. From MyNews3.

UPDATE November 1 2012: Floyd Atkins was sentenced on Nov. 1 to one year in county jail and two years probation. He also had to pay $200 in fines and fees. According to the deputy district attorney, Atkins “still doesn’t accept responsibility.” Alvarado Jimenez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation. From the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

US: Felony counts in Calif. case dropped after plea bargain

A California man arrested in December 2010 for aiming a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter reached a plea bargain agreement. 39-year-old Kevin Wayne Foster pleaded “no contest” on June 20 2011 to two misdemeanors: interfering with an aircraft, and pointing a laser at a peace officer. He was sentenced to time served. In addition, the pilot who was temporarily blinded in the incident suggested that Foster give presentations to schools and others on the hazards of pointing lasers at aircraft. Foster was therefore also sentenced to 100 hours of community service giving such presentations.

Two felony charges were dropped: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser. Foster could have faced more than four years in prison if convicted of these felonies.


Two misdemeanors, time served in jail, and 100 hours of community service

From the Redding Record Searchlight. Details about the December 6 2010 incident are here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Fontana Calif. teen arrested

Eric Sandoval, 19, was charged with pointing a laser at a Fontana police helicopter on June 18 2011. According to an officer who was in the helicopter, lasers have been aimed at the chopper “numerous times in the past” from the general area where Sandoval was arrested.

Fontana is near San Bernardino, and is about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

From the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

US: Arrest in Sacramento laser incident

On June 7 2011, a Sacramento police helicopter was struck four times “each lasting several seconds”, forcing it to break off a search for a stolen car. The crew used an infrared camera to locate the person aiming at them. 43-year-old Don Watson was arrested in his backyard with a green laser. He was booked on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

Don Watson laser
Don Watson

Watson’s stepfather told Fox40 that Watson bought the laser the day before and was told “Don’t point it at anything in the sky.” The stepfather said of Watson, “He’s an alcoholic … he has no sense whatsoever when he’s drunk.”

A pilot on the helicopter said that a laser will “give you sudden headaches and temporary blindness. It’s very dangerous.”

From the
Sacramento Bee and Fox40.com

US: Second laser assault in a week in Glendale CA

For the second time in less than a week a Glendale, California police helicopter was illuminated by laser light. In a May 27 incident, the aircrew was able to locate the South Glendale building where the beam came from. When they were illuminated again, they were able to pinpoint an apartment in the building.

31-year-old Erick Alberto Medina was arrested. He told officers that he did not point at the helicopter but instead had been using a telescope equipped with a laser pointer for sighting.

A police spokesperson said “It’s not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”

Earlier, on May 22, a Glendale police helicopter was illuminated and officers made an arrest, as reported here.

From the
Glendale News-Press

UPDATE, July 8 2011: Medina was arraigned in court. A news report did not list the exact charge against him, but did say that “he faces a possible three-year prison term if convicted.” From the Los Angeles Daily News

UPDATE 2, July 12 2011: Medina pleaded not guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. The court date was set for July 20. From the Glendale News-Press

US: Man arrested for helicopter illumination in Burbank CA

A Glendale police helicopter was illuminated four times as it came in to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. The crew tried to avoid the light as they searched for the perpetrator by using their thermal-imaging camera.

Rafael Torosyan, 30, was spotted in a park. Police followed him to an apartment building, where he was found hiding in a doorway. A laser pointer was found in his pocket and Torosyan was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

From the
Glendale News-Press

UPDATE MAY 31 2011: A Glendale police helicopter was lased again on May 27. Once again, officers were able to trace the source and arrest a suspect, as reported here.

US: LA Sheriff's Department announces 4 arrests

From September 2010 through April 2011, lasers have been pointed at Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopters six times. In this period, the LACSD has made arrests for four police helicopter illuminations:
  • 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.
A helicopter pilot said that lasers have “caused long term damage to some pilots”. Officials also noted that incidents have forced pilots to land or to break off their operations in order to take evasive action.

From 660 WORL, the Los Angeles Times and WalnutPatch

US: California woman arrested for illuminating two helicopters

Police announced that on Feb. 5, they arrested a Long Beach (California) woman for illuminating two helicopters on Jan. 29 2011, causing one to break off an aerial search for suspects who had shot at detectives. Officers on the ground located 34-year-old Kelly Ann Smith. They took her laser pointer and released her so they could continue searching for the shooting suspects. One week later, she was arrested, spent the night in jail, and was released the next day on $20,000 bail. She faces two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Police said they hoped the arrest would send a message that this type of offense would be punished harshly.”

From the
Los Angeles Times and the Long Beach Post

US: California man could face 4+ years in prison for helicopter illumination

A Shasta Lake, California man has been charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts, after a Dec. 6 2010 incident where a California Highway Patrol helicopter was illuminated multiple times with a green laser beam. Kevin Wayne Foster, 39, faces 4 years, 8 months in prison if convicted.


If convicted, Foster could be sentenced to over four years in prison

Click to read more...

US: 14-year-old arrested in LAX incident; did not think laser could reach aircraft

A 14-year-old boy was arrested Feb. 8 2011 for “shining a laser light into the eyes of a pilot” landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The illumination occurred when the plane was about 2,000 feet above the ground. The pilot was not injured, according to an FAA spokesman.

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.



From
CNN, NBCLA, and the Daily Mail. Note: The Huffington Post, citing CNN, reported that the 14-year-old was a girl, but other press reports said the suspect was a boy.

US: 3+ years in prison for California man

Balltazar O. Valladares, 30, was sentenced to three years and one month in prison for shining a green laser at a Sacramento CA sheriff’s helicopter on March 16 2009 [see report here]. The copter was hit while searching for the source of a laser that earlier in the evening had illuminated a Southwest Airlines flight landing at Sacramento International Airport.


Three years and one month in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft

Valladares admitted hitting the helicopter but denied hitting the airplane. He pled guilty in June 2009 to one count of interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft. In addition to his 37-month sentence, he also will have three years of probation after his release.

In sentencing Valladares, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb acknowledged the defendant’s “apparently sincere indication to turn his life around,” but said it was important to send the message that shining a laser at aircraft in flight is a “very serious problem (with) very, very serious consequences.”

From CrimeVoice.com

US: Four years for laser pointer at helicopter

A Rocklin California man has been sent to state prison for four years for pointing a laser beam at a Placer County Sheriff’s helicopter that flew over his neighborhood on a July night in 2009.

Jamie Allen Downie, 35, was given the sentence Friday January 22 2010 by Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O’Flaherty after he entered a plea of guilty to two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.


Four years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter

Pointing a laser beam at an aircraft in flight is a federal offense. A laser has the potential of blinding and disabling the pilot, which in turn could lead to the crash of the aircraft. Had he been prosecuted in federal court, Downie could have faced a longer prison sentence, according to Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Van Bogardus, the pilot who was the victim in the laser incident in Rocklin.

Click to read more...

US: 366 days in prison for interfering with patrol helicopter

Robert Duane Nighswander, 44, of Orland, California, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.

On October 21 2009, the California Highway Patrol was conducting a felony traffic stop near Nighswander’s home. Two CHP officers, both licensed pilots, were providing aerial support in a helicopter approximately 700 feet above the ground. Nighswander pointed a green laser device with a range of up to seven miles at the pilots to see if they would react. He pointed the laser at the helicopter no fewer than four times, affecting the pilots’ vision and ability to control the craft. Fortunately, the pilots were affected at separate times, kept the helicopter in the air, and identified the source of the laser.Click to read more...

US: Grand jury indicts man for hitting patrol plane

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Samuel Gregory Liebman, 51, of Roseville California, with interference with an aircraft for pointing a laser at a California Highway Patrol plane.

The indictment alleges that on August 30, 2010, Liebman struck a CHP Cessna 206 multiple times with a powerful green laser while it was flying .

This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, and Federal Air Marshals with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Liebman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

From a U.S. Department of Justice press release

US: 15 months in prison for 19-year-old

A 19-year-old man was sentenced to 15 months in U.S. federal prison, for illuminating a California Highway Patrol helicopter with a green laser beam. Nathan Ramon Wells will also be on probation for an additional three years after he completes his prison sentence.


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.

US: 2.5 years in prison for Calif. man

A California man, the first in the U.S. to be convicted at trial for interfering with pilots by beaming lasers at planes, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on November 2 2009.


2 1/2 years in prison for laser interference with pilots

Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange, California was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Welch also is to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett said.

Click to read more...

US: Felony arrest for shining laser at CHP helicopter

18-year-old Dustin Brown of Carmichael, California was arrested August 19 2009 for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter. He was charged with a felony; the maximum penalty under state law is three years in jail; under federal law it is 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

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

US: Man indicted for interfering with Southwest flight

A 29-year-old man from Roseville, CA was arrested and indicted for shining a green laser at a Southwest Airlines flight and at a police helicopter looking for the source of the Southwest incident. The incident occurred on March 16 2009. On April 2, he was indicted by a grand jury.

The acting U.S. Attorney, Larry Brown, stated in a press release “Federal authorities have recognized lasing of aircraft as an increasingly serious problem and have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute offenders. This is because the focused beams of a laser remain powerful even at a long distance and can expose pilots to radiation [light] levels above those considered to be flight safe. Brief exposure to even a relatively low-powered laser beam can cause discomfort and temporary visual impairments, such as glare, flash blind, and afterimages."Click to read more...

US: Two years jail for a 3.3 mW laser

A California man was sentenced earlier this week to two years in jail, for shining a 3.3 milliwatt laser at an aircraft. This was reported by a member of the SAE G-10T subcommittee who testified at the man’s sentencing. At this time, we do not have any additional information.

Reported by Patrick Murphy, an ILDA representative to the SAE G-10T subcommittee