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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

Canada: UPDATED - Arrest in Calgary helicopter incident

34-year-old Jason John McConnell of Calgary was arrested Aug. 16 for hitting a police helicopter multiple times with a “high-powered laser”. He faces criminal charges of obstructing a peace officer and mischief endangering life. He is also faces federal charges of projecting a bright light source at an aircraft, and lessening an aircraft crew’s ability to perform its duties.

The Calgary Police Service’s Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWC), was on patrol when hit by a green beam at 10:45 pm. The crew then put on protective glasses and began a 30-minute search during which they were hit two more times. During the incident, one runway was closed by the Calgary Airport Authority, as a safety precaution.

Police tracked the beam to McConnell’s home about 10 km (6 mi) away, arrested him and seized what they describe as a “high-powered laser”. McConnell claimed it was an accident: “I was playing with it inside the house and it hit a mirror. It’s not like I was inside pointing it at them. It’s pure coincidence.”

After the incident, the helicopter crew was grounded pending the results of eye tests to determine whether their vision was damaged.

From CBC News, the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald

UPDATE May 31 2011: The Calgary Sun has a short article about initial judicial proceedings against McConnell. The trial phase should begin shortly. From the Calgary Sun.

UPDATE 2 June 19 2012: On June 18 2012, McConnell pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of mischief causing damage to property, and to projecting a bright light at an aircraft to cause a hazard under the Aeronautics Act.
He received a six month conditional sentence followed by six months of probation. The first two months of the conditional term will be under house arrest; the remaining four months he will have a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. He also must complete 25 hours of community service and undergo counseling. Finally, he will not be allowed to possess laser pointers. Both McConnell’s lawyer and the crown prosecutor agreed that the sentencing conditions were an adequate punishment.
According to his lawyer, McConnell did not realize the seriousness of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He said the incident was due to “basically stupid curiosity.” From the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.