A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US: Coast Guard helicopter on practice flight is lased; lands immediately to get medical checkup

From a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on October 12 2017:

Coast Guard seeks tips, information on recent laser attacks on helicopters

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard is asking the public for tips or information regarding recent laser attacks aimed against rescue helicopter crews.

The latest attack occurred Tuesday evening near the Arcata-Eureka airport as an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was conducting a practice instrument approach.

The helicopter was southeast of the airport when a green laser coming from a wooded area about three miles east of McKinleyville, was shined directly at the aircraft. The pilots quickly landed so the crew members could receive medical checkups.

“Laser attacks against aircraft are a crime because of the danger they present to aviators and the public," said Capt. Greg Fuller, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. “Our aircrews put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to save others in distress. These laser incidents significantly impact our ability to respond and we ask the public's help in identifying the sources.”

It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Punishment under state law ranges from civil penalties of $1,000 up to $2,000 and three years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years.

Lasers, including common laser pointers, can cause glare, flash blindness, temporary loss of night vision and more permanent damage such as blind spots, cataracts and partial or total loss of visual acuity.

The Coast Guard encourages anyone who sees someone lasing any aircraft to call 911 to report the crime immediately.

Information about some California aviation laser incidents, including arrests and convictions of laser aircraft attackers, can be seen here:
http://laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-california.php

US: Virginia man arrested for aiming blue laser at police helicopter

A 45-year-old man from Centreville (Va.) was arrested for aiming a blue laser pointer three times at a Fairfax County Police Department helicopter on September 23 2017.

According to a police Facebook post, “the officers were temporarily blinded by the laser, but there were no serious injuries.” The source of the laser was traced to a vehicle on Manassas Gap Court in Centreville.

Carlos Zapata Rivero was charged with shining a light/laser pointer at an aircraft, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

From WJLA TV and FairfaxNews


US: 54-year-old woman arrested for multiple laser strikes on CHP helicopter

A California Highway Patrol helicopter was illuminated multiple times on September 20 2017, allegedly by an unnamed 54-year-old woman.

The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 01
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 02
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.


The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.

The FBI is investigating.

From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)

Cayman: UPDATED - Trial begins for man who pointed laser at police helicopter in 2015

Trial of a Cayman man, charged with multiple counts of aiming a red laser beam at a police helicopter, began September 13 2017. The incident took place on April 29 2015.

Officers on the ground had seen a red laser beam that appeared to be attached to a firearm. The helicopter was sent to investigate. A detective in the helicopter testified that he saw a bright red light which was pointed at the aircraft numerous times. The detective said he was worried for the pilot’s vision, and also that the laser could be attached to a weapon.

He radioed a description of the suspect to ground officers. Based on his appearance, officers approached Javonnie Silburn, then approximately 19 years old. They asked if he had a laser; Silburn said yes and showed them a device that had both an LED light and a red laser beam. He was arrested on a charge of endangering an aircraft.

Later Silburn told police that he did not do it, that it was another man.

Prior to the trial, Silburn attempted to plead guilty to shining the laser at the helicopter one time. But the Crown did not accept the plea due to the multiple times the laser was directed at the aircraft.

The endangerment charge was apparently dropped. Silburn, now 21, is being tried on a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior within the sight or hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

Under cross-examination on the first day of the trial, the detective admitted he could not say definitely that Silburn was the person with the laser, only that he identified a man with an Afro hairstyle and short pants.

According to the Cayman Compass, there was a separate laser incident in November 2015 involving police aircraft.

From stories in the Cayman Compass by Carol Winker. (August 31 2017 story about trial being set, Sept. 13 2017 story about initial court proceedings, Sept. 14 2017 story about trial being delayed for a few days).

UPDATED September 28 2017 - The trial was delayed until October 11 2017.

US: UPDATED - Man kills himself before being sentenced for aiming laser at helicopter

A Utah man killed himself September 17 2009, shortly before being sentenced for aiming a laser at a Utah National Guard helicopter.

On February 19 2009, Joshua Don Park allegedly pointed a green laser beam two times at the Apache helicopter as it was flying over the Bluffdale area, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. Pilot Ken Samson said “It was strong enough that it illuminated my window, but not the entire cabin.” According to Samson, the laser was brighter than a laser pen, but was not a “military-grade” laser.

The air crew notified the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office of the approximate location. A deputy went door to door. When they encountered Park, the 30-year-old said he had a laser pointer to play with his cats. Park admitted that he had shined a laser at the aircraft.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Park “believed that the helicopter was way too far away for it to make an impact or even see [sic]”

Park was charged on March 11 2009 with one count of interference with the operation of an aircraft. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

From KSL.com (Feb 25 arrest report, March 11 charge) and Deseret News

UPDATED - August 31 2017: A National Guard pilot told the South Valley Journal that Park committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced. Park died September 17 2009, according to a September 20 obituary in the Deseret News which included this photo:

Joshua Don Park laser

The South Valley Journal article implied that Park’s suicide was linked to the laser incident, and that it changed how the National Guard reacted to laser incidents. The article stated “Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences.”

US: North Carolina teen arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Around 1 am on August 9 2017, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department helicopter was targeted by a green laser pointer. The crew spotted a person standing outside a vehicle, holding a laser.

They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.

Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero laser
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero


Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.

Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.

From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV

Northern Ireland: Man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

An unnamed man in his 30s was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a Police Service of Northern Ireland in mid-July 2017.

The helicopter was helping the Coastguard trying to locate a lost person, when the laser illumination occurred.

The man was arrested for endangering an aircraft and was released on bail.

From
BelfastLive

US: Georgia man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A 47-year-old Georgia man was arrested for aiming a laser at a Gwinnett County police helicopter.

On July 5 2017, the helicopter pilots saw green laser light in the cockpit. They were able to trace it to a location in Johns Creek where ground officers arrested Marius Lizunas. He told them he was using a laser rangefinder to “check the range” to the aircraft.

Lizunas was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Marius Lizunas laser
Marius Lizunas


From U.S. News and World Report and WSB-TV

US: FBI looking for source of two July 4 laser illuminations in Cleveland

There have been numerous news reports in Cleveland, Ohio based on the FBI looking for the perpetrators of two laser illuminations. Below is a press release from the Cleveland FBI that describes the incident and the FBI’s search.

Seeking Information Regarding Laser Strikes

Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, and Calvin Williams, chief of Cleveland Division of Police, are seeking information regarding two recent laser strikes, one against a Cleveland Division of Police helicopter and one against a MetroHealth Life helicopter.

Both of these laser strikes occurred on July 4, 2017, at approximately 10:15 p.m. from the 3000 block of West 31st Street in Cleveland, Ohio.

The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.

Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.

The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred last week. If anyone has any information please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at (216) 522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.

Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI at (216) 522-1400 or vicki.anderson@ic.fbi.gov or Sargent Jennifer Ciaccia at the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 623-5033.


From an FBI Cleveland news release dated July 12 2017. Here are two typical news reports, from Fox8 and from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Canada: Edmonton woman charged with aiming laser at police helicopter

Sarah Schenker, 28, was said to have repeatedly aimed a laser pointer at an Edmonton Police Service air crew, early on the morning of July 11 2017.

She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.

A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”

From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press

US: Probation for Tulsa man who lased police helicopter

A man who aimed a green laser beam at a Tusla, Oklahoma police helicopter was sentenced on July 10 2017 to one year of probation, despite sentencing guidelines recommending an 18-24 month prison sentence.

On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.

Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.

While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”

If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.

From the Tulsa World

US and Iran: UPDATED - Iranian naval ship shines laser on US helicopter says U.S.; Iran denies

An Iranian naval vessel aimed a “targeting laser” at a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter on June 13 2017. This set off the helicopter’s automatic defense system, which fired flare signals.

A group of three U.S. ships — a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, and a dry cargo ship — were transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a U.S. military statement. The Iranian naval vessel, said by one source to be a missile ship, came within 800 yards of the assault ship and scanned two of the U.S. ships with a spotlight.

The helicopter was flying alongside the deployment when the Iranian targeting laser was aimed at it, setting off the flares.

There was no report of injury to the helicopter pilots. A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet said “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.”

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter
Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion


From Newsweek and CNN

UPDATED JULY 16 2017 - Iran claimed it did not point a laser at the helicopter. The Tasnim News Agency said “A top commander of Iran’s Navy denied reports that the country’s naval forces had pointed a laser at an airborne US Marine Corps helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz back in June. Commander of Iran's First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad categorically denied reports of such incident.”

The report had no additional details, such as what could have set off the helicopter’s flares as claimed by the initial U.S. report.

From the
Tasnim News Agency and the Tehran Times

Germany: UPDATED - Demonstrations at G20 summit target police helicopter

On July 6 2017, two police helicopter pilots were blinded by lasers aimed from the ground, during violent “Welcome to Hell” demonstrations protesting the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Media reports did not indicate how badly the pilots’ vision was affected.

Seventy-four other police officers were injured; one was hospitalized with an eye injury after a firework exploded in his face.

From the Mirror and Reuters

UPDATED JULY 9 2017 - After intensive investigations, German police arrested a 27-year-old Hamburg man “on suspicion of attempted murder”. The unnamed man blinded the two pilots “so badly while they were up in the air that they had to stop working because they couldn’t see.”

From FoxBusiness

US: Oklahoma City teenager arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 19-year-old Oklahoma City teen was arrested June 19 2017 for aiming a green laser beam multiple times at an Oklahoma City Police Department helicopter.

The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.

Darren Williams laser Oklahoma City
Darren Williams


The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”

He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.

From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5

Germany: Eight months for 49-year-old man who aimed at aircraft and police helicopter

A 49-year-old German man was sentenced May 31 2017 to eight months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.

The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.

He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.

From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.

US: Community service and fine for Calif. man who aimed laser at police helicopter

A 28-year-old man from Fontana, California was sentenced on May 30 2017 for aiming a laser at an Ontario, California police helicopter.

The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.

In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

From The Daily Bulletin

US: Three years in 2017 for Kansas City man who aimed laser at police helicopter in 2013

Jordan Clarence Rogers, 26, was sentenced on January 17 2017 to three years in federal prison without parole.

On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.

Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.

At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.

Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”

In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”

From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.

US: Maryland man hits police helicopter eight times; crew goes to hospital

Connor Grant Brown, 30, was arrested for aiming a green laser pointer about eight times at a Maryland State Police helicopter on January 16 2017. The crew abandoned their mission (looking for a man running barefoot in cold temperatures), and landed. Two of the four persons on board — the pilot and the crew chief — went to Frederick Memorial Hospital for treatment. They were later released but will have to return for follow-up testing. The two men went back to work the following day.

Connor Grant Brown laser Jan 2017
Connor Grant Brown


Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.

According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]

The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”

The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”

A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.

At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”

After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”

From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

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: Wash state man aims laser at helicopter then at arresting officers

A 32-year-old man aimed a “multicolored LED laser light” at a Spokane (Wash.) County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on September 17 2016. The crew notified deputies on the ground of the laser’s location.

When deputies arrived, they told Brandon J. Neeser to show his hands. Neeser pointed the laser device at the deputies. They saw it was not connected to a gun so they did not take defensive action. The deputies arrested Neeser, who told them he did not know it was illegal and he “thought it would be funny” to aim at the helicopter because they were aiming a light at him.

Neeser faces two felony counts of unlawful discharge of a laser.

From MyFoxSpokane and KREM

Scotland: Man arrested for aiming laser at Police Scotland helicopter

A 41-year-old man was arrested for a September 5 2016 incident where a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated by laser light. The man was on Trafalgar Street in Clydebank, about 5 miles northwest of Glasgow, when the laser pen attack occurred.

A police spokesperson said “It is an offense we take extremely seriously and people need to realize the dangers of this reckless behavior. Our message is clear, use them and you will be arrested.”

From GlasgowLive

US: After lie detector test, another Texas man pleads guilty to aiming laser at a helicopter

On September 13 2016, Christopher B. Evans pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a flying aircraft.

Evans, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, worked as a security guard in a medical clinic. Workers at the clinic told FBI agents that Evans had laser pointers of different colors and sometimes aimed them at employees.

On October 27 2015, Evans stood outside the clinic and lit up a WOAI-TV news helicopter three times with a green laser:

Oct 27 2015 laser helicopter 01
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer

Oct 27 2015 laser helicopter 02
The laser beam goes directly into the cockpit


The helicopter pilot was able to help ground officers find Evans’ location. Evans initially denied his involvement to investigating FBI agents. After questioning with a polygraph, Evans said he did hit the helicopter and in fact had previously aimed lasers at other aircraft as well.

Evans will be sentenced December 12. He could receive up to five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000.

This is the second guilty plea in Texas this month. Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.

From the Hastings Tribune, Houston Chronicle and News4SanAntonio

US: Texas man pleads guilty to aiming laser at Border Patrol helicopter

Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 2016 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.

The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.

Juan Peralez laser
Juan Peralez


He will be sentenced November 17 to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

From KLTV and the Gwinnett Daily Post

Canada: Teen points laser sight on pellet gun at police helicopter

A teenager was arrested after aiming the green beam from a pellet gun’s laser sight at an Air2 police helicopter in Vaughn, Canada, a town just north of Toronto, on August 16 2016.

An infrared camera onboard the aircraft helped the crew locate the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found the pellet gun, which 19-year-old Nicholas Caranci had thrown to the ground as he ran away. The IR camera helped the helicopter crew direct officers to the teen’s location.

Caranci laser Air2
In an attempt to escape arrest, Nicholas Carianci ran from the court at right and hopped over a fence, after throwing his pellet gun with a laser sight into weeds (green circle). Thanks to the helicopter IR surveillance camera, police were able to pick up both the teen and the pellet gun.


Caranci was arrested and charged with mischief endangering life, unlawfully engaging in behavior that endangers an aircraft, and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace.

From the Mirror

US: Two brothers in South Texas charged with aiming laser at helicopter

Two brothers from McAllen, Texas were arrested for aiming a laser at an Air and Marine Operations helicopter.

The incident happened August 25 2016 in Mission, Texas. The pilot’s vision was temporarily impaired as the laser light lit up the cockpit. The pilot directed ground officers to a home, where Aaron Caceres, 27, and his brother Francisco Caceres, 24, confessed to the laser misuse.

Aaron Caceres laser Francisco Caceres laser
Aaron (27) and Francisco (24) Caceres


They were charged with illumination of aircraft by intense light, a Class A misdemeanor.

From ValleyCentral.com and Chron.com

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

UK: Eight and six month sentences for aiming laser pen at helicopter

Two U.K. men were sentenced to jail on July 22 2016, for aiming the green beam of a laser pen onto a police helicopter.

During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.

Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.

His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.

The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”

Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”

Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”

From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

US: Woman arrested by Houston police for aiming laser pointer at helicopter

A 23-year-old Corpus Christi, Texas woman was arrested July 10 2016 for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter flying in a low-income area of Houston.

The helicopter was lased twice while in the air, and a third time when it landed. Officers traced the laser to Emily Ann Hunter. She was charged with illumination of an aircraft, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $1,000.

Emily Ann Hunter laser
Emily Ann Hunter


From Click2Houston

US: Florida man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 26-year-old man was arrested on July 8 2016, for repeatedly aiming green laser light at a Marion County (Florida) sheriff’s helicopter.

Officers in the helicopter were searching for a kidnapping suspect when they were illuminated 15-20 times as they flew over Weirsdale, Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. The pilot was directly hit in the eyes “at least five times” according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

The airborne officers used night-vision equipment to find Phillip Willman. He was arrested and told officers he only aimed the laser at the helicopter once. Willman was charged with six counts of pointing laser light at a driver or pilot.

Pic 2016-07-11 at 5.05.30 PM
Phillip Willman


The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that during 2016, there have been “over five” incidents where lasers were aimed at helicopters, two of which ended with an arrest.

From FOX35 Orlando

UK: Man sentenced to 20 weeks, for aiming laser at police helicopter

A Hull man was given a 20 week prison sentence on February 18 2016, for aiming a £9 (USD $13) laser pen at a Humberside Police helicopter on January 6 2016. Philip Houghton, 25, had previously pleaded guilty to the offense.

Philip Houghton laser
Philip Houghton


From BBC News

Canada: Winnipeg teen aims at police helicopter, gets one year conditional discharge

Akshay Sharma was given a one year conditional discharge sentence, plus 30 hours of community service, on December 21 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Winnipeg city police helicopter in June 2015. The aircrew was temporarily distracted and disoriented.

Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.

From the
Winnipeg Sun

US: Coast Guard training mission in Georgia aborted after seeing laser beams

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter aborted a training mission after noticing a green laser beam tracking the aircraft, on November 16 2015. There were no reported injuries, and it is unclear whether the beam of the laser entered the cockpit.

The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.

From WTVM

US: 3 news copters plus police chopper illuminated by laser light in NYC

Two news helicopters were illuminated with green laser light around 5:30 pm local time in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, as they hovered to cover a story about a stolen Greyhound bus. A NY Police Department helicopter called to the scene also had a green beam aimed at it.

[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]

One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.

NYC aircraft laser Nov 11 2015

WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.

laser nov 11 2015 nbc brooklyn
From WNBC Chopper 4




According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “

Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.

The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.

Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)

About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.

laser nov 11 2015 abc7ny elizabeth nj
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video



From Fox News, NBCNewYork, DNAinfo, ABC7NY, Newsday, New York Daily News

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: UPDATED - Texas man pleads guilty to aiming a laser at a DPS helicopter

A 37-year-old Dallas man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on November 3 2015 to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The incident occurred on May 30 2015. Orlando Jose Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23 2015, after being indicted by a federal grand jury.

He remains free on bond; a sentencing date has not been set. He could receive up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

Orlando Jose Chapa laser
Orlando Jose Chapa


From ABC13 and the Dallas Morning News

UPDATED February 18 2016 — Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison. From KCBD

US: Florida man aims "laser comb" at helicopter, is arrested

A Florida man aimed a Bosley LaserComb, used to stimulate hair growth, at a Marion County Sheriff’s helicopter on September 2 2015. The pilot was temporarily blinded. In addition, his night vision goggles were overwhelmed by the bright light.

The helicopter crew radioed ground officers, who arrested Mark A. Geohagan, 55, of Ocala. He told officers it was “not a laser” but a laser comb. Geohagan said he was testing the distance the light could reach, and that he meant no harm. Geohagan was charged a few hours later with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.

Mark Allen Albert Geohagan laser
Mark A. Geohagan. His middle name was variously reported as “Allen” or “Albert”


The Bosley LaserComb Elite used by Geohagan has nine red 650nm laser diodes arranged in a line, that normally are directed towards a person’s scalp. When aimed into space, it produces a single, “extremely bright” spot of light as described in more detail after the “Read More…” link below.

From the Ocala StarBanner and Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to Chuck Maricle, Ph.D., for background information on hair comb products. For additional description and analysis of laser combs, click the “read more…” link.

Click to read more...

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

UK: Man given 12-month conditional discharge for aiming laser pen at Humberside police helicopter

A 26-year-old man from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire was sentenced August 3 2015 on charges of shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The incident occurred March 27 2015, and involved a Humberside Police helicopter.

Scott Christopher Brown was given was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and costs of £85 by North Lincolnshire magistrates.

(For non-U.K. readers, “a conditional discharge is a sentence vitiating the finding of guilt in which the offender receives no punishment provided that, in a period set by the court [not more than three years], no further offence is committed.” In 2008, about 6% of sentences were conditional discharges.)

From the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Wikipedia page on Discharge (sentence)

US: UPDATED - Texas man arrested for aiming at eight airliners and a police helicopter

A 23-year-old man from rural Alvarado, Texas was arrested July 22 2015 on suspicion of aiming a laser at eight commercial aircraft as well as a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter and a Fort Worth police helicopter.

Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.

Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.

The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.

The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”

Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.

Austin Lawrence Siferd laser
Austin Lawrence Siferd


According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.

From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com

UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.

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

UK: London teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A south London teenager was arrested on July 27 2015 for aiming a laser pen at a Metropolitan Police helicopter. The aircraft was searching for a burglar when it was repeatedly hit. The crew identified the source, and the boy was arrested about an hour later. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.

From the London Evening Standard

US: Police helicopter pretends to be airplane on approach; lures Phoenix man with laser

On July 1 2015, pilots landing at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport reported being targeted with a green laser. A Phoenix Police helicopter sent to investigate flew a pattern similar to aircraft on approach, and drew laser fire from Scott Allen Hines, 25.

Scott Hines laser
Scott Hines


Ground officers arrested Hines on four counts of endangerment: two for the police helicopter occupants, and two for the pilots of a fixed wing aircraft that was earlier hit by the laser.

The police pilots reported having headaches and seeing spots due to the laser exposure.

From the Foothills Focus

US: 2 Orlando men competed to see who could hit more aircraft with lasers

Two Orlando men, who had just bought new laser pointers, aimed them into the sky to test the beams’ distance. Bystanders told them to point at airplanes, so the men began a competition to see who could target more aircraft.

The contest took place on July 7 2015. One of the aircraft was a Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ground officers arrested Rolando Espinoza, 22, and Shannan Winemiller, 21. Espinoza told deputies “he thought he heard that it’s illegal to point lasers at airplanes, but he wasn’t sure at the time.” Each man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third degree felony in Florida.

From January 1 to July 7 2015, there were 47 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FBI in Central and Southwest Florida. Sixteen of these were in the Orlando area.

Rolando Espinoza laser Shannan Winemiller laser
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller


From the Orlando Sentinel

US: Oklahoma City man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A man was arrested July 5 2015 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Oklahoma City police helicopter. William Ernst, 23, was a passenger in a car at a drive-thru restaurant when he repeatedly targeted the aircraft. The pilot radioed to ground officers, who arrested Ernst on the laser charge, as well as for possession of fireworks and public drunkenness.

William Ernst laser
William Ernst

From KOCO.com and News9.com

Iran: U.S. ship and helicopter targeted by laser on Iranian merchant ship

A U.S. Navy destroyer and one of its helicopters, in international waters off the coast of Yemen, were targeted multiple times over four days by a laser on an Iranian merchant vessel. The laser harassment began July 5 and ended July 8 2015.

There were no reports of injuries or damage caused by the laser, so the Navy “believes it was not of industrial or military grade quality….” A Navy public affairs officer from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command called the Iranian use of the laser as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

From CNN and Stars and Stripes. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention. Note: The U.S. Navy in November 2014 deployed the first laser weapon sent into trials on an active duty warship, the USS Ponce. Six commercial welding lasers are merged into a single beam of 30 kilowatts, that can be used against targets including Iranian gunboats, according to SlashGear.

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

Luxembourg: Laser beam aimed at Air Rescue helicopter

On May 5 2015, a laser beam was aimed at a Luxembourg Air Rescue helicopter flying near the German border. It is not known which country the beam originated from.

At about 10 pm local time, the crew noticed a laser beam aimed at their aircraft. They were able to avoid having the beam go directly into their eye, thanks to quick reaction due to training which LAR holds on a regular basis.

A compaint was filed with Luxembourg Airport police. The incident did not interrupt a mission as the helicopter was returning from a German hospital when the laser beam was spotted.

From the Luxemburger Wort
Click to read more...

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...

UK: Two men charged with shining a laser at Humberside Police helicopter

Humberside Police announced April 10 2015 that two men had been charged with a February 11 2015 incident where a green laser light was aimed at a police helicopter flying over the Carnaby area of East Yorkshire. The helicopter team sent a tweet afterwards: “Whilst conducting search [we were] lasered. Speechless!”

Humberside police laser helicopter
Humberside Police helicopter photo of laser glare from February 11 2015 illumination


The men, aged 31 and 46, will appear at Beverley Magistrates Court on May 20 2015 on charges of endangering an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to two years in prison.

From BBC News and the Bridlington Free Press

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: Medical helicopter pilot in Denver has "sore eyes" after laser illumination

The pilot of a medical helicopter flying in the Denver area was illuminated with a laser beam at about 8:30 pm local time on March 30 2015. The pilot made a “precautionary landing … was checked out and is off work for the next few days due to having sore eyes.”

The source of the laser is unknown.

From KUSA 9 News

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

Ireland: Rescue helicopter targeted with a laser

A coast guard rescue helicopter looking for a missing man was targeted by a laser pen at about 1 am local time on March 14 2015, in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), County Donegal, Ireland. The Garda superintendent said ““I must question the thought process of any individual who would endanger rescue personnel answering a call for assistance.” Authorities asked for help in finding the unknown perpetrator.

From Highland Radio and the Irish Mirror

US: Air Force base employee, 57, repeatedly hits Tampa sheriff's helicopter with laser

A man who worked as a historian at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, was arrested March 13 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s helicopter. There had been reports of a pilot flying over Plant City, Florida who was flashed by a green laser beam. The sheriff’s helicopter was sent to investigate. The pilot reported “he’s hitting us repeatedly, and he’s not shy about it.” An infrared camera caught 57-year-old William Polson in the act:

William Polson laser 3


The suspect, realizing he had been spotted, took off in his car — with the laser. However, ground officers caught Polson at the entrance to his subdivision and took him to jail, where he was charged with misusing a laser device which is a felony, and for opposing a police officer during an arrest which is a misdemeanor.

William Polson laser 2
William Polson


According to the Tampa Tribune, in September 2013 Polson sent an email to the newspaper saying he had been harassed for several years by law enforcement helicopters and aircraft. He said the harassment occurred daily but “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”

From ABC Action News WFTS Tampa Bay and the Tampa Tribune

US: UPDATED - 3 pilots go for eye treatment after multiple LaGuardia laser illuminations

A pilot on an Air Canada commercial airliner, and two New York police officers on a helicopter, sustained eye injuries from a laser beam pointed at aircraft flying into and out of LaGuardia Airport on March 9 2015. According to police, the helicopter officers were treated and released in stable condition. The Air Canada pilot was taken to a hospital in Toronto for treatment.

On the evening of March 9, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the New York Police Department aviation department that someone was pointing laser beams at aircraft landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport. A helicopter was dispatched to try and “draw fire.” Nothing happened for about 20 minutes, until the helicopter flew a path similar to an aircraft landing approach. On the second pass, a laser was aimed at the helicopter.

Both pilots were hit. Said one, “You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”

Ground officers went to the apartment of Frank Egan, 36. His mother invited the officers inside, where they found a device labeled “Laser 303.” According to police, Egan admitted using the laser pointer. He said it was purchased for $50 in an Orlando shop while on vacation.

He was charged with assault on a police officer, felony assault, menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The next day, March 10, Egan told reporters that he did not aim the beam and that he was sleeping at the time of the incident.


From NBC 4 New York, the New York Post and the New York Times

UPDATED March 14 2015: Frank Egan’s roommate and brother-in-law, Elehecer Balaguer, 54, claimed that he was the one using the laser pointer. According to the New York Times, Balaguer swore an oath in New York State Supreme Court on March 13 2015 that he, not Egan, was responsible: “Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. It was just a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do.” Balaguer first denied aiming at aircraft, then after being asked two more times, confessed “I pointed it at the plane, yes, thinking it was a …” and his voice trailed off. He then said “But I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest. From the New York Times. A related article in the New York Times published March 12 2015 was entitled “Powerful Lasers Easy to Buy, Experts Say.” The New York Post called the laser “military-grade” and said it had been purchased while on vacation in Orlando.

Elehecer Balaguer laser
Elehecer Balaguer in court


UPDATED March 17 2015: Balaguer was charged on March 16 2015 in federal court with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. FAA officials said they had to redirect traffic in and out of LaGuardia on March 9 to avoid going over the Bronx, where Balaguer and Egan lived. Balaguer’s attorney said the suspect “uses methadone every day and takes medication for bipolar disorder”, and that he was “harmless”: “It was stupidity, not venality.” From the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATED May 5 2015: Balauger pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He could face up to five years in prison. The judge said sentencing guidelines call for between 2 and 2 1/2 years. He said sentencing of Balauger would not be routine “Given his psychiatric history, given his apparent lack of any wrongful intent, I can see one set of arguments being made; on the other hand I can see a different set of arguments because of the danger presented,” said the judge. Sentencing was scheduled for September 9 2015. According to the New York Post, Balauger is a disabled ex-heroin dealer who has a history of schizophrenia and left school after ninth grade. From CBS New York, the New York Post, and the New York Times.

Click to read more...

Australia: "Slight eye pain" for crew of helicopter targeted by teen

A 19-year-old Woollamia man will appear in Nowra (NSW) Local Court after being charged with shining a laser pointer at a navy helicopter from HMAS Albatross on October 30 2014.

It is alleged the man targeted a Seahawk helicopter from 816 Squadron as it was returning to HMAS Albatross after a training flight about 10.30pm. The high-powered laser was pointed at the aircraft for around a minute from the car park of the man’s workplace at South Nowra.

The helicopter landed safely, with the four crew members on board treated for slight eye pain.

Police from the Shoalhaven Local Area Command interviewed the pilot and co-pilot, who provided an approximate location of the beam’s origin. Police searched the area and located the 19-year-old man.

A laser pointer was seized by police and the man was issued with a future court attendance notice and is due to appear in Nowra Local Court on November 19.

From the South Coast Register

UK: Hampshire-area man fined £245 for "recklessly" aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 21-year-old man from Ringwood, in Hampshire, pleaded guilty November 4 2014 to “recklessly” dazzling a police helicopter with a laser pen. Angus Beezer Martin was fined £140, plus a £20 victim surcharge and costs of £85. The laser was destroyed.

The incident happened August 4 2014.

From the Salisbury Journal

US: 37 months in prison for aiming at two news helicopters

A 33-year-old South Carolina man was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison on November 4 2014, for aiming a green laser beam at two news helicopters as they hovered over an accident site.

Damien Wade Conley was in a pickup truck on Interstate 85 on November 20 2013 when, stopped in traffic due to the accident, he repeatedly aimed a laser pointer out the front window towards the helicopters. One pilot said “When he hit us with that laser, the first thing I saw was the whole cockpit lit up green.”

Damien Wade Conley laser vehicle 1

Damien Wade Conley laser vehicle 2
Two views from WYYFF’s Sky4 helicopter, showing the beam from Conley’s vehicle being aimed close to the aircraft, and then aimed directly into the camera.


From WYFF4 and an FBI press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Carolina

US: 2 Coast Guard training missions cut short after laser tracks helicopters

Two Coast Guard training missions in Michigan were cut short after the pilot and crew were illuminated with green laser beams. One mission took place October 17 2014, the other mission three days later. The Coast Guard announced the incidents in a statement on November 5 2014.

The HH-65C Dolphin helicopters were based in Detroit. “During both incidents the lasers appeared to track the helicopters as they moved,” said the agency.

The Coast Guard has strict rules requiring helicopters to abandon their missions if illuminated with laser light. Anyone exposed is taken off flight duty for 24 hours, has their eyes dilated and must be cleared by a doctor before flying again.

From Ars Technica and the Lansing State Journal

US: Florida man arrested for aiming green laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 22-year-old Coconut Creek, Florida man was arrested November 26 2014 for aiming a green laser beam three times at a Broward Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Jonathan Leiva was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, and was released on $1,000 bond.

An officer in the helicopter, deputy Christopher Marchese said the crew was searching for a suspect when the cockpit was suddenly illuminated with a “big green light”. He was illuminated directly in his right eye, and another crew member was also hit in the eye. When the beam hit again, Marchese was able to see the laser beam and follow it down to Leiva’s location. Ground officers arrested Leiva, who admitted shining his laser at the helicopter.

Jonathan Alan Leiva laser
Jonathan Alan Leiva


From January 1 to November 14 2014, there were 317 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida. 49 of these took place in Broward County, and 18 in adjacent Palm Beach County.

From WSFN News, Aviation News via the Sun Sentinel

UK: Total fines of £415 for London-area man who aimed at police helicopter

A 32-year-old man was sentenced on October 14 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a London Metropolitan Police helicopter. He was fined £300, plus he had to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and court costs of £85 (total £415 or U.S. $666).

On July 19 2014, helicopter “India 99” was trying to locate 10 people walking across rooftops. Arkadiusz Wozniewski of the London suburb of New Malden aimed a laser pen at the aircraft. This caused the search to be called off.

Wozniewski pleaded guilty in Wimbledon Magistrates Court on October 8 2014.

From the Surrey Comet

US: 12-year-old Maryland boy aims laser pointer at police helicopter

A 12-year-old boy aimed a green laser beam at a Maryland State Police helicopter on October 12 2014. The aircraft was returning from a medivac mission when it was illuminated four times by the beam, near Mount Airy MD.

Ground police who were directed by the helicopter to the laser’s source. The boy was given a warning. Police described the laser as an “astronomy” laser used to locate objects in the sky.

From the Baltimore Sun, WFMD, and CBS Baltimore

US: Two Texas men indicted for aiming laser at police helicopter

Two Texas men were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 24 2014, for aiming a green laser pointer at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter.

The incident occurred at about 1 am on June 1 2014. A DPS crew responded to a report of a medical helicopter having laser beams aimed at it, near Amarillo’s Tradewind Airport. As it searched, the DPS helicopter was struck by laser beams two or three times.

Suspects on the ground got into a van and drove away. The DPS aircraft followed them, directing ground officers who closed in. A laser pointer was seen in the van. They arrested Matthew George Dodgen, 35, and Christopher Anthony Cantrell, 33.

DPS referred the case to the FBI. The grand jury indicted on charges of aiming at an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The men were also indicted on an “aiding and abetting” charge.

From Amarillo.com


Australia: After Perth laser helicopter illumination, police seize lasers, rifle, knives

A police helicopter was “targeted by a green laser beam on numerous occasions” according to a spokesperson, as it flew over the Perth-area suburb of Beckenham on September 23 2014. The beam was traced back to a home in the East Victoria Park suburb.

At the home, police seized two green laser pointers, a rifle, and “several display knives.” There were no arrests as of the next day. Police said a 30-year-old man was assisting with their inquiries.

From the West Australian via Yahoo! News

UK: Police copter abandons search for missing North Yorkshire woman, due to 6-year-old aiming laser pen

A North Yorkshire Police helicopter was searching in Selby, a town 14 miles south of York, for a missing 89-year-old woman on September 27 2014 when the aircraft was struck by a laser beam. The pilot was forced to abandon the search for about 10 minutes, in order to direct ground officers. They found a six-year-old boy had been aiming a laser pen at the aircraft.

The officers spoke to the child’s parents, telling them that shining light in pilots’ eyes is dangerous. The boy was said to have had no malicious intent.

The missing woman was later located “safe and well,” according to police quoted in an October 2 2014 news story.

From YorkPress.com

US: Police copter abandons search for Queens rapist, due to laser pointer attack

A New York Police Department helicopter was searching in the New York City borough of Queens for a rapist at about 8 pm on September 24 2014 when the aircraft was struck by a laser beam. The pilots were said to be blinded. They were forced to abandon the search in order to track down the laser offender.

Neither the rapist nor the laser perpetrator have been found, as of October 1 2014 when the NYPD made details of the incident public on their Facebook page.

From Pix11.com and the police Facebook page

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-time laser offender sentenced to 2 years in Las Vegas incidents

Thirty-year-old James David Zipf of Henderson, Nevada, was sentenced on September 23 2014 to two years in prison for aiming a blue laser at Las Vegas-area police helicopters six times total, on January 30 and February 3 2014.

Zipf had previously been convicted in 2011, of pointing a blue laser at a Phoenix police helicopter. It is not known what fine or sentence, if any, came out of the 2011 conviction.

In June 2014 he pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony in the U.S. since February 2012. In addition to the prison sentence, Zipf also must undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment. He has until December 30 2014 to report to prison.

From KLAS-TV and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada. LaserPointerSafety previously reported on Zipf’s February 2014 indictment, and details of the lasing incidents, in this story.

US: UPDATED - Laser at Orlando-area high school football game hits TV & police helicopters

Police in Oviedo, a city 18 miles northeast of Orlando, are searching for two suspects who aimed a green laser beam at a local TV helicopter, and then at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on September 19 2014.

WKMG-TV’s helicopter was filming a football game at Paul J. Hagerty High School with the incident occurred. A screenshot of footage from the TV helicopter shows the bright green flash as the beam is aimed directly at the camera:

WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 01


A second later, as the beam is aimed away from the camera, the laser location is visible in the crowd at the end of the bleachers:

WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 02


A close-up of the video footage, taken just after the laser was turned off, shows the two suspects. The bright object at lower left inside the yellow circle appears to be the laser, held in the left suspect’s right hand.


WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 03


According to the station, a sheriff’s department helicopter was also hit; presumably it was responding to the WKMG illumination. Deputies told WKMG reporter Shaun Chaiyabhat that they talked to two teenaged suspects, but the deputies think the teens might have passed the laser pointer to friends in the crowd.

Chaiyabhat said “The Sheriff’s Office is taking this very seriously because they say it could be a federal crime.”

From ClickOrlando.com.

UPDATED - September 22 2014: WKMG ran a recap and short update on the story. The laser was not only pointed at the helicopters, but “players on the field were also complaining of getting flashed by the bright light.” As of the update, no arrests had been made.

Australia: Incident in Mandurah comes one week after another man fined $10,000

A 28-year-old man from Mandurah, Western Australia, was arrested for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter. The September 26 2014 arrest came one week after another Mandurah man, Raymond Alexander Moore, was fined AUS $10,000 for an August 25 incident where Moore continually aimed a laser at a police helicopter.

In the new incident, the helicopter was conducting a search when it was hit numerous times at about 2:30 am. The unidentified man was arrested at his home in Meadow Springs, northeast of central Mandurah.

From the Mandurah Mail and ABC News

Australia: AUS $10,000 fine for "stupid idiot" in Mandurah shining laser at police helicopter

A 40-year-old man from Mandurah, Western Australia, was fined AUS $10,000 (US $9,093) on September 19 2014 for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter. A news report said that Raymond Alexander Moore “showed his disregard for the court” by shaking his head as his fine was announced.

On August 25 2014, a police helicopter searching for a violent offender was continually blinded by a green laser beam. The pilot took evasive action and “was under immediate distress.”

According to Moore’s lawyer, Moore had been outside with his dog, playing with the laser, when he decided to aim at the helicopter: “He didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.”

When ground officers, directed by the helicopter pilot, arrived at Moore’s home, he said he was “stupid” and “an idiot” for aiming at the helicopter.

Moore faced up to three years in jail and up to AUS $36,000 maximum fine. The judge said “the risk of damage was huge” and that Moore “should be grateful this offence was dealt with in this court” [instead of jail].

From the Mandurah Mail

UK: 12 month community order for Farnworth man who aimed laser pen at police helicopter

James Hunt, 27, of Farnworth was sentenced September 10 2014, for aiming a laser pen from his bedroom window at a police helicopter on May 23 2014. The laser strike caused the helicopter to abandon a search for a missing person, in order to determine Hunt’s location in Farnworth, a town of 25,000 that is situated nine miles northwest of Manchester.

In August, Hunt pleaded guilty to acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, and to possession of cannabis. He was given a community order for 12 months, a supervision order, was fined £20, was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge, and he had his laser pen and cannabis forfeited.

From the Bolton News

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: Airplane flight patterns changed after Tampa man aims laser at landing aircraft

A 24-year-old Tampa man using a laser pointer hit four commercial aircraft on approach to Tampa International Airport on September 7 2014. Ahmed Maher Elhelw also illuminated a Tampa police helicopter that was investigating, hitting it four times within four minutes.

Ahmed Maher Elhelw laser
Ahmed Maher Elhelw


As a result of the laser strikes on the commercial aircraft, air traffic controllers rerouted “a handful” of flights. This is one of the first times that LaserPointerSafety.com is aware of commercial aircraft in the U.S. being redirected to avoid laser attacks.

A spokesperson for the Tampa airport was quoted as saying ““It’s really not a big deal for us to reroute flights at night. We do it all the time for different reasons. The passengers probably wouldn’t even know.”

Click to read more...

UK: "Really stupid man" arrested for shining laser pen at West Yorkshire police

Lee Gary Greenway, a 25-year-old man from Featherstone, was arrested July 31 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a West Yorkshire police helicopter. The aircraft was searching for a high-risk missing person at the time.

Lee Gary Greenway laser
Lee Gary Greenway


During his arrest, he apologized for his actions and called them “really stupid”, according to the judge at Greenway’s August 25 2014 hearing. Greenway pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. He was released on bail pending sentencing on September 8.

From the Wakefield Express

US: SW Florida teen "meant no harm" by aiming a laser at an airplane and police helicopter

A teenager who recently moved to southwest Florida from Cuba was arrested after he aimed a laser pointer at a commercial aircraft and a police helicopter, on August 8 2014.

Seventeen-year-old Daniel Castillo first pointed the laser at an aircraft coming into to land at Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to find the source. Castillo then aimed three times at the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to his location where he was arrested.

Daniel Castillo laser
Daniel Castillo


The youth told WZVN TV that he was playing with the laser and did not mean any harm. His uncle said that Castillo did not know it was wrong: “It’s not like it was intentional to hurt someone, he didn’t know the consequence.”

A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division said that laser illuminations can be “very distracting and devastating... All of our crews have been hit with lasers at one point or another. It’s just getting worse and worse.”

From WZVN ABC-7

US: Charlotte-area teen's parents call police after son tells them he aimed laser at helicopter

Smith Hayden Brundage, 19, of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, was charged with two counts of use of a laser device towards an aircraft, after he aimed a green laser pointer at a Charlotte-Meckenburg Police Department helicopter on August 12 2014.

According to Brundage’s lawyer, the teen wanted to see if the laser light could reach the CMPD helicopter. It did; Brundage told his parents and they called police. His lawyer says the youth is a “really good kid who made a really dumb decision” and is “ready to face up to” prosecution.

Smith Hayden Brundage laser
Smith Hayden Brundage


The FBI joined the local police department in investigating the incident. The federal agency has not decided whether to file federal charges.

According to the FAA, there were 34 laser shining incidents to date in 2014, in North Carolina; nine of these occurred in the Charlotte area.

From
WFMY News 2, Time Warner Cable News and WSOC-TV

UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack

Two men from Walsall were sentenced September 2 2014 for up to 16 weeks in prison, for what a West Midlands police helicopter pilot called the most “persistent and determined” laser pen attack in his 14 years with the police.

Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.

The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.

Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.

At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."

During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."

From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star

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 - Kansas City man indicted on federal charges for aiming at city police helicopter

Jordan Clarence Rogers, 24, of Kansas City, was indicted August 26 2014 for aiming a laser pointer at a Kansas City Police Department helicopter on October 8 2013. A federal grand jury handed down the indictment.

From Connect MidMissouri

UPDATED September 8 2016: Rogers pleaded guilty to one felony count. Prosecutors say the pilot sustained eye strain that lasted for hours. From KSNT.com

UK: £300 fine for Rotherham man attempting to distract a police helicopter

Ben Roe, 23, pleaded guilty in late August 2014 to aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter on July 28 2014. Roe, who lives in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was fined £300, plus £85 in court costs for his attempt to distract the pilot. His laser pen was also seized.

From The Star

Australia: Mandurah man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 39-year-old Western Australian man was arrested for aiming a green laser beam numerous times at a police helicopter on August 25 2014. The man, from Mandurah (about 45 miles south of Perth), was tracked by the helicopter’s infrared camera to his home.

From WA Today

Canada: Man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter in Richmond Hill; pilot seeks treatment

An unidentified man was arrested after an Air 2 police helicopter pilot reported being temporarily blinded by a laser beam at about 11:30 pm on August 24 2014, while flying over Richmond Hill, in the Toronto metropolitan area.

The pilot was able to identify the source location of the laser. He then landed and sought medical treatment.

Ground officers stopped a vehicle and arrested the man.

From CTV News Toronto

US: Texas man indicted on federal charges for aiming at DPS helicopter

Steven Alexander Chavez, Jr. of Garland, Texas, was indicted in late August 2014 by a federal grand jury in Dallas, for aiming a green laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. If convicted, Chavez, 23, faces up to five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

On August 24 2013, as a DPS helicopter flew over Garland, a green laser light illuminated the cockpit. The crew identified three persons on the ground and sent officers. When confronted, the three men did not want to identify who did it, until they were told the helicopter had video of the incident and suspects. Chavez then confessed. He was arrested and the laser pointer was confiscated as evidence.

Chavez had been arrested just a few weeks earlier, on August 3 2013, on suspicion of drunken driving. (He was passed out in a car that had crashed into a pole. He told officers he had three 12-ounce beers earlier. He could not remember what city he had started driving from. When asked if his trouble remembering was because he was drunk, Chavez reportedly said “Probably.”)

He had served a four-month sentence in Lubbock, earlier in 2013, also for drunk driving.

From the Dallas Morning News

UK: Woman who deliberately aimed at police helicoper avoids jail sentence

A 20-year-old woman from Bircotes, Nottinghamshire, avoided jail when sentenced August 14 2014 for aiming a laser pen a number of times at a police helicopter.

On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.

Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.

Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”

The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.

Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.

From the Worksop Guardian

Ireland: Laser pen aimed at police helicopter in Larne

A laser pen was aimed at a police helicopter in Larne, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland on August 16 2014. Ground officers were directed to a home where they arrested a 19-year-old male on suspicion of possession of cannabis. In addition, an investigation is continuing.

The area commander told the Larne Times that lasing aircraft is an offense under the Air Navigation Order as it is “highly irresponsible and dangerous”.

From the Larne Times

UK: Police helicopter struck by laser near Manchester; 13-year-old involved

A Greater Manchester police helicopter was dazzled by the beam from a laser pen on August 16 2014, as it flew over Eccles, about 4 miles west of Manchester.

The pilot located the beam at the Brookstone Estate in Peel Green. Ground officers found a 13-year-old with a laser. They confiscated the laser and spoke to the youth. No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation is ongoing.

The pilot did not need or seek medical attention.

According to the chief inspector, there were five incidents “in the past couple of months.”

From the Manchester Evening News

UK: Laser pointed at air ambulance over Warwick

A Midlands Air Ambulance was targeted by a laser beam over Warwick at an altitude of 1,200 ft., as it flew victims of an automobile accident to Coventry’s University Hospital on August 11 2014.

According to a trauma doctor on board, “Fortunately for us, the pilot is highly experienced and dealt with it. But, had the laser caught anyone’s eye albeit briefly, it can lead to blindness for at least ten minutes and a loss of spatial awareness. Had we not taken action and avoided being been dazzled, it would have prevented us landing until the visual effects had settled, delaying treatment of the casualty. It has the same effect as deliberately slowing down an ambulance en-route to hospital. If we can find whoever is responsible, we will seek to have them prosecuted.”

From the Stratford Observer and BBC News England

US: Florida man, 52, arrested; helicopter noise bothered him so he aimed a laser at it

A 52-year-old from West Boca, Florida, was arrested July 10 2014 for aiming a laser pointer at a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter. The pilots said they had been “disoriented” by the laser light.

James McDonald told arresting officers that the noise had been bothering him. He apologized, saying that he did not know that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal.

He was charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.

From the Sun Sentinel

US: Tampa man indicted for Feb. 2014 lasing of police helicopter

A federal grand jury on June 17 2014 indicted Jeremy Wayne Sumpter, 29, on charges of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

In February 2014, Sumpter was arrested after a police helicopter was hit by a green laser beam. He told the arresting officer that he was responsible. When the pilot arrived, wearing his flight suit, Sumpter asked him, “Were you the one in the helicopter?”

From the Tampa Bay Times

US: Puerto Rico man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Christopher Jusino Rodriguez of Ponce, Puerto Rico, was arrested for aiming green laser light from his apartment balcony at a police helicopter, impeding the vision of the crew, on June 19 2014. Jusino admitted the act to arresting officers, who retrieved a laser pointer from a trash can. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

From Yahoo News

Australia: Perth-area man fined AUS $2500 for multiple laser hits on police helicopter

A 51-year-old Perth-area man was fined AUS $2500 (USD $2350) on July 8 2014 for “causing fear or alarm with a laser”.

At about 11:30 pm on April 19 2014, Peter Allan McArthur of Parmelia aimed a green laser numerous times at a police helicopter. Ground officers found McArthur with two handheld lasers; he told the officers that he aimed at the aircraft “to see what happens”.

During trial, the police prosecutor said McArthur should face a jail sentence due to the potential hazard.

According to his lawyer, McArthur’s laser misuse “could have had serious consequences but he did not intend for anything like that to happen. He did not intend danger.”

The judge let McArthur off with the $2500 fine, plus $147 in court costs and his lasers would be destroyed. She said she took into account that McArthur pleaded guilty and had a minimal record.

From In My Community

US, Canada: Aircraft have close calls with drone UAVs (not a laser incident)

On July 1 2014,, there were two close calls between small, unmanned, remote-controlled aerial vehicles (UAVs) and human-carrying aircraft. [Although these are not laser incidents, we are mentioning them here as they are harbingers of another potential aircraft hazard.]

  • In Vancouver, the pilot of a K.D. Air Corporation airplane reported a near-miss with a UAV when taking off from Vancouver International Airport. Investigators were searching to find the person responsible. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson said this was not the first case, and they have investigated several complaints of model aircraft flying near the airport. According to the Vancouver Sun, he also said that “lasers pointed at police helicopters and other aircraft are equally troubling and there are few regulations prohibiting the use of either device in such situations.”

  • In New York City, a UAV described as a “drone” flying near the George Washington Bridge came within 800 feet of a police helicopter. The UAV was at about 2,000 feet altitude, which is above the 400 foot limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration for model aircraft used for recreation. The helicopter pilot was able to track the drone as it landed. Officers on the ground arrested Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and Remy Castro, 23, and charged them with reckless endangerment.

From the Vancouver Sun (drone only story; drone + laser story) and the New York Times

US: UPDATED - Yet another Orlando person arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

In the third Orlando-area incident in less than a month, 30-year-old Joseph Parrott was arrested on July 2 2014 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Orange County sheriff’s department helicopter.

Joseph Parrott laser
Joseph Parrott


The helicopter crew was investigating an attempted burglary when they were hit “about four or five times” by a person in a car stopped at a traffic light. Parrott was charged with knowingly and willfully pointing a laser lighting device at the pilot of an aircraft, which is a third degree felony in Florida. Federal charges under the February 2012 law -- with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine -- may also be filed. In addition, the state attorney’s office was considering charging the driver of the car, Steven Romano, age 55.

Joseph Parrott arrest laser
During the arrest, Romano’s car at right, has six police vehicles behind it.


This incident comes less than a month after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 7 for aiming a laser at a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter (just north of Orlando), and only two days after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter (just south of Orlando).

From ClickOrlando.com and the Orlando Sentinel

UPDATED November 18 2014 - Parrott was found guilty of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. Parrott faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2, 2015. From an FBI press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida.

UK: Three young men arrested in east London for shining laser pen at police helicopter

Three young men were arrested June 25 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a Metropolitan Police helicopter flying over east London. Two of the suspects were 19 year old, the other was 20. They were arrested on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From the London Evening Standard

US: Another Orlando-area teen arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 17-year-old teenager from Kissimmee Florida, south of Orlando, was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser pointer at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter. The pilot said he was temporarily blinded by the light.

Jasiel Medina-Quintana told deputies he was playing in his backyard and did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. A neighbor interviewed by WKMG said the teen shouldn’t have been arrested: “I buy them [laser pointers] for my kids all the time.... What are they going to do? Arrest every kid who has a laser pointer?” asked Joanne King.

Jasiel Medina-Quintana laser
Jasiel Medina-Quintana


Medina-Quintana was booked into the Osceola County jail and was later released into his mother’s custody.

This incident comes less than a month after another Orlando-area teen was arrested on June 7 for the same offense.

From ClickOrlando.com

US: Orlando-area teen arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

On June 7 2014, a 19-year-old man from the north Orlando area was arrested on felony charges of pointing a laser light at a pilot, and culpable negligence.

Trevor Ragno of Longwood, Fl. aimed a green laser light at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was on patrol. Ground officers were directed to a home where Ragno was found and arrested. He was released on $1000 bond the next morning.

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando
Trevor Ragno


Officials said there have been five incidents of lasers being pointed at pilots in Seminole County, all of which led to arrests. [The timespan of the five incidents -- during 2014 or all-time? -- was not indicated.]

ClickOrlando.com has an online news story from WKMG-TV which includes video from the helicopter of the laser attack, and of a person running away from a home. Below are two screens captured from the video.

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando copter

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando house


From ClickOrlando.com. Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - Tampa man arrested with laser pointer; marijuana also found

A Tampa-area man was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, possession of marijuana less than 20 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

On June 5 2014, a green laser was pointed at a Tampa police helicopter. The crew radioed the laser location to ground officers, who found Bradley Alan Steffes, 29, of Brandon, FL. He told officers he was playing with the laser and pointing it at random objects. A search of his pickup truck revealed a laser pointer and the drug items.

The 18-county Tampa division of the FBI recorded 102 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013.

From the Tampa Bay Times

UPDATED June 27 2014: Steffes was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 26 2014. From the Tampa Bay Times

Canada: Medical helicopter lased twice over Ottawa

Transport Canada reported that an Ornge medical helicopter was struck twice by a green laser beam at about 2 am on May 30 2014, as it flew five km northeast of Ottawa airport.

There were no reports of the laser’s effect immediately available.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, “a similar 2009 lasing incident left an Ornge pilot with serious eye damage and grounded for several weeks after he was hit by a laser beam while flying at about 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills.”

Statistics from Transport Canada list 461 reported laser incidents in 2013 -- an increase from the 357 reported in 2012. The Air Canada Pilots’ Association has asked for criminal penalties and more government control over laser devices.

From the Ottawa Citizen

Scotland: Community service for ADHD man who lased police helicopter, 8 weeks before copter crashed into pub

An Edinburgh man was sentenced to 240 hours of community service on June 2 2014, for aiming a green laser beam at a Police Scotland helicopter. Jones avoided jail time “because his actions were linked to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” according to an Edinburgh Evening Times news story.

The incident occurred on October 1 2013. The helicopter pilot turned the craft away from the beam, to avoid the light. Other crew used infrared cameras to track the perpetrator and direct ground officers to his location. The officers found a laser pen in the possession of Grant Jones, 24, and arrested him.

The same helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow on November 29 2013, killing all three on board plus seven persons on the ground. There is no linkage between Jones’ laser illumination and the crash 60 days later, which was caused by both engines flaming out.
Click to read more...

UK: NPAS arrests Skelmersdale man; says "lasers put lives at risk"

On May 17 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter in west Lancashire was searching for a car with cloned plates when it was struck by green laser light at about 12:45 am. Officers on the ground were directed to the source of the beam and arrested an unidentified Skelmersdale man.

Skelmersdale laser NPAS
The laser’s light, as seen from the NPAS helicopter

The NPAS chief superintendent said “Shining a laser pen at an aircraft not only puts the pilot and the crew in danger, but it can delay the helicopter which may result in serious injury or even the loss of life. These are stupid and reckless acts. We will deal robustly with anyone who uses lasers and puts lives at risk.... Such offences hold a potential five-year custodial sentence and/or a significant fine.... Real people’s lives are at risk. This is not some kind of computer game.”

From the Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser

US: UPDATED - Austin TX man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr. was arrested in late May 2014, on charges of aiming a laser pointer multiple times at an Austin, Texas police helicopter, as it was trying to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on February 15 2014.

Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser
Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr.


The 25-year-old faces up to five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine if convicted.

From KEYE TV

UPDATED - July 7 2014: Ruedas entered a guilty plea in Federal court in Austin. No sentencing date has been set. Ruedas faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. From SFGate, KEYE TV and the Austin American-Statesman.

UPDATED - October 2 2014: Ruedas was sentenced to two years in prison, plus three years probation after his release. From KTBC and the Austin American-Statesman.

UPDATED - October 9 2014: Austin TV station FOX 7 obtained video from the AIR-1 helicopter, showing the Frbruary laser strike and the arrest. From MyFOXaustin.

Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser pointer arrest video
Click photo for a link to the FOX 7 video

US: UPDATED -- Florida man "just being dumb" pleads guilty to aiming laser at jet and helicopter

A Palm Beach area man pleaded guilty May 21 2014 on federal charges of aiming a laser at a commercial jet. Michael Ryan Fischer could face up to five years in prison, but prosecutors said they will recommend no prison time for the 26-year-old from Wellington, Florida, in part because he has no prior criminal record.

On December 30 2012, an AirTran pilot reported that a green light was in his cockpit as he flew about 10 miles west of Palm Beach International Airport. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also affected by the light.

Fischer was located by ground officers, who reported that the man told them “he didn’t think it was serious and he was just being dumb.”

Michael Fischer laser
Michael R. Fischer


On April 18 2014, Fischer pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of pointing a laser at an aircraft. At that time, prosecutors said he could face a six-month sentence according to a story in the Sun Sentinel. It is not known why Fischer pleaded guilty on May 21 2014, although it may have been a plea bargain to further reduce his sentence.

Original arrest story, Jan 2 2013 from WPBF. Guilty plea story, May 21/22 2014 from the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. Update information below from a phone conversation, July 31 2014.


UPDATE -- July 31 2014: Fischer told LaserPointerSafety.com that he was sentenced July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, to two years probation and 50 hours of community service. He said, “What kept me out of jail was not having a [prior criminal] background. “ Fischer described his guilty plea as part of an agreement that helped to reduce the sentence. He said aiming the laser, which he bought for $5 from Amazon.com, at an airplane was “the worst mistake of my life. Now I am a convicted felon.”

In addition, the FAA is considering civil charges against him, for interfering with a flight crew. The fine would be up to $11,000 per violation.

According to Fischer, up until his arrest, he was unaware that lasing aircraft was hazardous or illegal. He urged that laser labels, product packaging, and marketing materials should be required to warn users against aiming at aircraft. His warning for others was “Don’t think you’re not going to get caught, because if you do it you’re going to get caught.”

Finally, Fischer said “Please let people know I would like to apologize to the pilots, the airline, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office.”

(Note: Fischer expressed similar sentiments in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, posted July 31 2014.)

South Africa: Laser aiming at aircraft is on the rise

The Citizen newspaper has a general description of how laser/aircraft incidents are increasing at King Shaka and Virginia airports in Durban, South Africa.

A police representative quoted in the May 24 2014 story indicated that there have been several incidents in the past few years. He said “These green lasers which are readily available, inexpensive and extremely powerful have huge potential for damage. In my opinion there is no commercial application for them and people shouldn’t have them. It’s an offence under the Civil Aviation Act and if prosecuted individuals can face a fine and/or imprisonment up to 10 years.”

Police are “clamping down on culprits” according to an airport spokesperson.

From The Citizen

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

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

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

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


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

Click to read more...

Canada: Pilots, drivers report laser flashes near Calgary airport

A green laser was pointed at two commercial aircraft pilots at about 10:30 pm on May 13 2014. The laser came from the Signal Hill community of Calgary, located about 8 miles (13 km) from Calgary International Airport. A Calgary Police Service helicopter was dispatched but did not see the laser light.

About one hour later, a driver reported being blinded by a light in the same area.

Police asked anyone with information to call their Crime Stoppers line.

From 660 News

US: UPDATED - Drunk NC man arrested for aiming laser at civilian helicopter

An intoxicated man aimed a laser at a civilian helicopter on May 5 2014, prompting the pilot to call 911 to have the man be arrested. Police said that 33-year-old Christopher Funk of Oak Island, North Carolina admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter and said he “was drunk last night and did not remember much except for shining a laser light around.”

The pilot, flight instructor Jessica Ward, was teaching a student to land at Cape Fear Regional Jetport when the incident occurred. She said the laser tracked her aircraft, twice temporarily blinding her and the student. “It refracted in the bubble and lit up like a light bulb,” she told station WECT. She said “I said you know what, this is a real threat that needs to be handled.... I just thought this seemed like a bad dream. I can’t believe this is about to happen to us at this airport in this community, and sure enough, it did.”

Christopher Funk laser
Christopher Funk


Funk was charged with a Class H felony for pointing a laser at an aircraft. He could receive five to six months in prison. Funk had previously been convicted for offenses including felony larceny, possession of burglary tools, damage to property, violation of probation, and driving while impaired.

From WECT and State Port Pilot

UPDATED - May 11 2015: Funk pleaded guilty in federal court to the charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He had been out on bail and will remain free until his sentencing, scheduled for on August 3 2015. Funk could receive up to five years in prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. From StarNewsonline.com

UPDATED - November 4 2015: Funk was sentenced in federal court to five years probation and 200 hours of community service. From WNCN and PortCityDaily.com.

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

UK: Man charged with aiming laser at police helicopter

A 36-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser at a Sussex Police helicopter at least two times on February 26 2014.

Stephen Slark of Southwick was charged with shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. He will appear in court on April 1 2014.

In addition, a 27-year-old companion was arrested but later released without charge.

From The Argus

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

UK: Two East Sussex laser/aircraft illuminations lead to police warning

A helicopter and a commercial aircraft flying over the Crowborough area of East Sussex were illuminated by laser beams in two separate incidents.

On March 15 2014, a helicopter flying at 6000 feet reported being targeted by a laser. The beam came from the London Road area, but the laser was not found.

On March 18 2014, an Airbus reported being flashed by a laser, as the aircraft was heading into Gatwick airport.

Police warned local residents that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a "considerable threat" as well as being illegal.

From Crowboroughlife.com and the Kent and Sussex Courier. Thanks to Stephan Butler for bringing this to our attention.

UK: 5 months in prison -- suspended -- for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

A 26-year-old Bristol man was sentenced March 19 2014 to five months in prison, suspended for two years, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter. In addition, he must complete 200 hours of unpaid work within the next year.

On January 20 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter was at 1500 feet altitude, searching for a missing person. Gavin Hoskins was "playing" with the laser, aiming it first at rooftops and then aiming 3-4 times at the helicopter. He did not think the laser had the range to reach the aircraft, which broke off the search to track Hoskins.

According to the prosecutor, “it does not appear that the pilot on this occasion was distracted.”

When arrested, Hoskins told police that the was sorry and had been "stupid" to use the laser pen, which was still in his pocket.

The laser had been purchased in Bulgaria for his young daughter, Haskins said to police.

At trial, Hoskins admitted recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. His lawyer said “it was not a deliberate act to endanger the pilot of the helicopter.”

The judge called Hoskin's actions "stupid and potentially extremely dangerous" and noted that a number of recent helicopter crashes have resulted in "destruction and death."

Hoskins, a security guard, lost his job -- apparently due to negative publicity surrounding the case.

From BBC News and the Western Daily Press.

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...

New Zealand: Man charged with using "light sabre" to illuminate police helicopter 4 km away

An Auckland man faces up to 14 years in prison for shining a powerful laser almost 4 km towards the Eagle police helicopter.

On December 1 2013, Kristian Larsen aimed a blue laser “like a light sabre” from his home in central Auckland towards the aircraft which was taking off from the police helicopter base at Mechanics Bay. The laser beam led police to Larsen’s location, where he was arrested.

The 44-year-old man is charged with endangering transport.

Police said similar lasers are shown on YouTube videos as cutting through plastic and setting fire to objects. An investigation is ongoing.

From the New Zealand Herald

UK: Nottingham area man fined £300 for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 22-year-old man was fined £300 on February 18 2014 for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter whose noise was bothering him.

On January 26 2014, Craig Mather of Carlton (an eastern suburb of Nottingham) heard the helicopter and aimed a £20 laser pen at it. The pilot was distracted as he was attending a serious incident in Arnold, to the northwest of Carlton. Ground units were notified and went to Mather’s home.

Prosecutors said Mather told authorities that “the helicopter annoyed him, as it was always above his house, and wanted it to go away. He said he didn't know how far the laser went.”

In court, Mather admitted to the charge of directing or shining a light at a police helicopter, so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The crime is punishable by a fine. He was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

From the Nottingham Post

US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers

A judge has ordered Nicholas Vecchiarelli to stay away from lasers, after the Hubbard, Ohio man pleaded not guilty on February 21 2014 to obstructing official business, a charge that could result in up to eight years in prison.

Vecchiarelli, 46, was accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a news helicopter that was covering a high school football game on October 11 2013. The pilot said he saw the light several times. Police found Vecchiarelli in his driveway with a police scanner and a laser pointer. They said he confessed and gave them the laser.

News reports at the time said he was arrested on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. It is not known what happened to that charge.

He is currently free on $10,000 bond.

Nicholas Vecchiarelli laser
Nicholas Vecchiarelli


From
WFMJ.com and TribToday

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

US: UPDATED - Tulsa man says he was not aware his laser was aimed at a police helicopter

A Tulsa man arrested February 15 2014 says he was pointing a laser pointer at trees and a cellphone tower when a Tulsa Police Department helicopter began hovering in front of his house and then police, Homeland Security and the FBI knocked on his door.

Carl Floyd said “I was freaking out. At first, I didn't know what was going on, then they told me what was going on and I first I denied it because I was nervous. It was 100 percent accident, not intentional, to hit an aircraft or put anybody else in danger.”

Carl Floyd laser
Carl Floyd


The helicopter pilot said he was hit three or four times by the green laser light, and that he doesn’t believe it was an accident.

Floyd’s case will go to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him on federal charges with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Tulsa laser incident map 2014
A map of the Tulsa area showing recent (2013) laser incidents


From NewsOn6.com and Tulsa World

UPDATED November 13 2014 - A federal jury deadlocked in July 2014. During the trial, Floyd said he was aiming at objects such as a cell tower, a mailbox and a tree, and he did not knowingly illuminate the helicopter. Just before a second trial in November, he made a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty; saying he “knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the flight path of a helicopter that I was aware was flying nearby.” He said he had suffered severe injuries in a July 21 2014 motorcycle accident. The prosecution agreed that in light of his medical condition, a probationary sentence be imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for February 20 2015. From the Tulsa World.

US: UPDATED - El Paso man faces federal charges of pointing a laser at a police helicopter

Don Ray Dorsett, 28, was arrested February 21 2014 for aiming a laser at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter.

The incident occurred January 4 2014. No one was injured. Dorsett was arrested in El Paso and was charged with a violation of 18 USC 39A, aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

From WOAI, Statesman.com and a press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas

UPDATED - July 31 2014: Dorsett was convicted by a federal jury. Sentencing was scheduled for October 2 2014. He could receive up to five years in federal prison. From KVIA.com.

US: UPDATED - Las Vegas area man, previously convicted of aiming lasers at helicopters, does it again six times

A 30-year-old Las Vegas area man was indicted February 18 2014 on six felony counts of aiming a laser at police helicopters.

James David Zipf had been convicted in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011 for aiming a blue laser at police helicopters. In May 2013 he moved to Henderson, Nevada, 12 miles from Las Vegas.

The indictment stated that Zipf aimed a laser at Las Vegas Metro Police helicopters six times between January 31 and February 12 2014. In one of the attacks, the pilot was so disoriented that he landed the aircraft and ended his shift.

At a detention hearing, Zipf was ordered to remain in jail. The judge said he had endangered the helicopter crews, was a threat to the community, was not truthful to federal agents, and was using drugs.

Zipf faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each of the six counts.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MyNews3 and CBS Las Vegas

UPDATED - September 24 2014: Zipf was sentenced to two years in prison. He also must undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment. A news reported noted that one of the flight officers in a February 3 2014 incident experienced a severe headache. From KLAS-TV

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: Dallas traffic reporter targeted by green laser

A traffic reporter for Dallas’ KRLD radio station was targeted by a green laser aimed into his plane. Randy Fuller said “All of a sudden it focused right on me, like near my eye.” He moved to avoid the beam, and the laser was then aimed at the face of pilot Colin Doney.

No injuries were reported in the January 29 2014 incident.

In a Dallas incident that occurred the previous week. the co-pilot of a medical helicopter was treated at a hospital after having his right eye “burned’ by a green laser.

From CBSDFW

UK: Police employee, 53, sentenced to two years community service, £3,500 in costs

A police community service officer (PCSO) was sentenced February 4 2014 to two years community service, and was ordered to pay £3,500 in costs, for pointing a green laser beam towards a police helicopter hovering above his home.

On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)

James McIvor PCSO laser
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police


McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.

McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page

US: Phoenix man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A 36-year-old man was arrested on January 21 2014 for aiming a green laser at a Phoenix police helicopter.

After the helicopter was illuminated by the laser, the crew aimed a spotlight at a man standing alone on a hill. Over the P.A. system, the crew told the man to walk down the hill. He was detained by local security guards until police arrived.

He was identified as Edward Bebec. A small, high-intensity handheld laser was found on the hill. Bebec was charged with two felony counts of endangerment.

Edward Bebec laser
Edward Bebec


From AZfamily.com

UK: Jury finds man guilty of aiming at Blacon police helicopter

On January 22 2014, a jury unanimously found a 28-year-old man guilty of “conduct likely to endanger life” for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter.

The incident occurred in Blacon, an area in Chester (20 miles south of Liverpool) on August 11 2012. The helicopter was able to trace the laser beam back to a person in a garden, later identified as Richard James Brooks.

Sentencing of Brooks was scheduled for February 12.

From ChesterFirst

US: Dallas medic in helicopter suffers eye injury from laser on ground

A paramedic on a medical helicopter suffered an apparently temporarily eye injury by a green laser beam coming from the ground at about 4:35 am on January 17 2014.

Michael Pruitt, 30, was heading to St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas with a patient when a laser was aimed from the area of Interstate 35 and Harry Hines Boulevard. Pruitt was struck in the right eye.

The helicopter made an unplanned landing at Dallas Love Field. The patient, Pruitt, and the flight nurse rose in an ambulance to the hospital, a distance of about 2 miles. At the hospital, Pruitt’s eye injury was examined.

A Dallas Police Department incident report says Pruitt sustained “a burn to his right eye” and was “unable to see out of it.”

A spokesman for his employer, Air Evac Lifeteam, said “Its my understanding he’s fine.” But Pruitt’s father said his son still cannot see out of his eye and has a headache: “We think his eye will be fine, but you never know until it heals. He’s been in a lot of pain.”

An FAA spokesperson said this was “the most significant injury we’ve seen in the DFW area.”

From NBCDFW.com and WFAA.com

Wales: Suspended sentence for 8-minute lasing of police helicopter

A 22-year-old man from Greenfield, Flintshire was given a suspended sentence on January 9 2014 for aiming a laser in a “persistent and prolonged laser attack” on a North Wales Police helicopter.

On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.

Wales laser attack
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen
here.

While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.

The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.

Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.

At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.

From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online

UK: Strood teen arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 17-year-old from Strood, near Kent, was arrested December 21 2013 on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft. A police helicopter was looking into a burglary when it was struck by a laser beam at about 11:30 pm. The teen was located on Rochester High Street and was arrested.

He is out on bail until January 17 2014.

From Kent Online

US: Florida man arrested for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and police helicopter

A 51-year-old Florida man was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony, for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and at a police helicopter.

On December 28 2013, an aircraft landing at Southwest Florida International Airport, in South Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida, reported a laser incident. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to investigate. It was illuminated by a laser from a residence in Cape Coral, Fl.

Ground officers found Stephen Clyde Plock, 51, and two children at the residence. Plock initially denied knowledge of the laser but eventually admitted that he saw the plane and helicopter and aimed the laser into the sky.

Stephen Plock laser
Stephen Plock


From WINK News and NBC News

Australia: Perth-area man questioned for aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter

A 29-year-old man from the Perth-area suburb of Seville Grove, was questioned by police for repeatedly aiming a green laser pointer at a police helicopter early in the evening of December 31 2013.

The helicopter crew led ground officers to the man’s home. He will be summonsed for causing fear with a laser or light to people in conveyances.

From the West Australian

US: UPDATED - Florida teen sorry he aimed laser at police helicopter

A Florida teenager did not realize the hazard, when he used a green laser pointer to track a Volusia County sheriff’s helicopter less than an hour into the new year on January 1 2014.

Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.

Andrew Decker laser
Andrew Decker

In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.

Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”

His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal

UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal

UK: Two Manchester-area teens arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Two teenagers, 14 and 17, were arrested for endangering the safety of an aircraft on December 21 2013, by aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter. The teens were from Wigan, a town in greater Manchester. They were released on bail until February 19 2014.

From Wigan Today

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: UPDATED - News reports quote helicopter pilot who suffered two burned corneas from 1995 laser exposure

During a December 10 2013 ABC News report about a JetBlue airliner being lased in Palm Beach, a helicopter pilot interviewed said he had two burned corneas from a laser attack. From the transcript:

Reporter Jim Avila: “We also spoke to helicopter pilot Steve Robertson who suffered two burned corneas from a laser attack.”
Robertson: “You take the vision out from a pilot, that aircraft’s ability to land is greatly compromised.”

A Google search turned up three stories about Robertson’s injury. A November 2010 Glendale News-Press article included the following:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson is all too familiar with the consequences of pointing a laser at a helicopter.

Robertson's corneas were severely burned 15 years ago when his police helicopter was flashed with lasers. He said it felt similar to being hit by a baseball bat.

"It's no different than pointing a gun or shooting at a police officer," he said. "It could have the same outcome."

Robertson said he avoided crashing because he was flying with another pilot.

After being struck by the laser, Robertson was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors scraped his corneas. He returned to work four days later and still has 20/20 vision, he said.

Robertson's injury was the last laser-related injury to the department's helicopter pilots.


A January 2011 NPR report also has information about the incident and injury:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson remembers the first time he encountered a laser strike. He says his helicopter was hit by a powerful beam of green light one night while he was on patrol.

"It immediately [lit] up the whole cockpit and it hit both of my eyes and burned both of my corneas," says the veteran pilot. "Instantly, I was blinded. It felt like I was hit in the face with a baseball bat — just an intense, burning pain."

Robertson was momentarily incapacitated and would have crashed if his co-pilot hadn't been able to land the chopper. He recovered from his injuries. But since that incident back in the mid '90s, Robertson says he and his fellow police pilots in Glendale have been targeted dozens of times by people shining cheap, easy-to-buy lasers.


Sources: Dec. 10 2013 video report from ABC News. Nov. 2010 story from the Glendale News-Press. Jan. 2011 story from NPR. Not quoted above is a Feb. 2013 ABC News story; it may have used the same interview clip as the Dec. 2013 ABC News story.

UPDATED JUNE 20 2014: Another story referencing Robertson’s claim of two burned corneas is from CBS Los Angeles on June 19 2014.

UK: London man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 46-year-old man from southeast London was arrested December 3 2013 for shining a laser pen at a Metropolitan police helicopter.

The crew was able to use video equipment to trace the source of the laser, to a home in St. Paul’s Cray. The man was arrested and admitted using the laser.

He was given a police caution for endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From The Guardian

US: Drifting diver rescued by aiming laser at searching helicopters

A deep sea diver whose safety line broke and who was drifting out to sea, was rescued November 1 2013 when he aimed a green laser at a helicopter that was searching for him.

When Ron Tubbs failed to surface from his dive off Kaena Point, Oahu, his dive partner contacted the Honolulu Fire Department. A helicopter was sent to search; first from the Fire Department and later a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

As the skies grew dark, Tubbs saw one or both helicopters but they were searching too close to shore. He pulled out a green laser pointer and aimed in the direction of the aircraft. (News stories are not clear as to which helicopter, or perhaps both, Tubbs aimed at.)

Tubbs later said, “When it got dark I think they finally realized they saw the beam of the laser way off in the distance and [I] took care not shine it in their eyes or anything, but in their direction and it reflects off the moisture in the air, so it makes a pretty big beam.”

Ron Tubbs laser submitted
Ron Tubbs, diver rescued by aiming laser at helicopter to get its attention

Ron Tubbs laser rescue 02
Tubbs demonstrates the laser


The laser worked to get the aircrews’ attention. Tubbs was rescued by the Coast Guard helicopter after about four hours in the water, and was taken to a decompression chamber.

Coast Guard Lt. Chris McAndrew said “With how dark it was last night, it would have been impossible to see him unless we were right on top of him, knew exactly where he was. The way were able to find him so quickly was because he had some kind of signaling device.”

From Hawaii News Now, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Huffington Post

UPDATED February 11 2014: Ron Tubbs wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com, to give advice for anyone who might use a laser to attract rescuers:

“The green laser saved my life. The failure of my other safety gear put me in a very serious position. My physical condition was failing quickly. I was vomiting when they picked me up from over four miles from the search area. Any delay due to the use of my laser to get help was very serious.

“My life was depending on the Coast Guard and Fire Department rescuers. To hurt those who are saving other people's lives with a by shining a laser at them is very serious and could have cost me my life.

“The Coast Guard pilot who saved my life reported to me that the green laser and/or any LED light is not seen with their night vision goggles. Three of the four crew were wearing those goggles.

“I will never scuba dive without my green laser again and have it as a safety device. Even so because night vision goggles do not see LED light I would suggest a nice expensive strobe and very bright flashlight (not LED) too or flares as the main signal device in addition to the laser. Also the Fire Department helicopter would not go near a laser as they have only have one pilot and a glass helicopter floor.

“To shine a laser towards a helicopter could actually cause the rescue to be delayed. Also shining the laser right into their eyes could blind the ones you need to rescue you so be very careful if you do use one to get help. Do not put those trying to rescue you at risk too. Shining in their direction and
not at them will work well enough.

“Thanks to those who saved my life. Please all do not put them at risk further by shining a laser at them! “

US: 45 days for "bored" Ohio man who lased police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 45 days in Franklin County (Ohio) jail and 18 months probation on November 7 2013, for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus police helicopter.

Michael Rademacher, a traveling maintenance man, had purchased the blue laser and used it to etch his initials on his work tools. On the night of March 21 2013, he was bored and decided to aim it at the police helicopter. One pilot said it was the brightest he had seen pointed at him. After regaining their bearings, the pilots identified the source of the beam and notified ground officers. Rademacher initially said he was not involved but he confessed after officers armed with a search warrant found his laser.

In September 2013, Rademacher pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of criminal tools. As part of the plea bargain, the more serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft was dropped.

If Rademacher violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months. Rademacher also lost his job as a maintenance man due to his arrest and plea.

From the Columbus Dispatch

Australia: NSW man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 23-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at the New South Wales police helicopter Polair on November 23 2013.

The helicopter crew had been called to assist with a police operation at a party in Cabramatta, a suburb about 30 miles from Sydney, when about 11pm, the pilot reported a laser beam was being directed at the aircraft. Polair was able to direct Cabramatta police to a unit block in Lansdowne Road, Canley Vale, where they arrested the man and seized a laser pointer.

The man, from Canley Vale, was taken to Cabramatta Police Station where he was charged with use prohibited weapon and act to threaten safety of an aircraft. He was granted conditional bail to appear in Liverpool Local Court on 18 December 2013.

From a New South Wales Police Force press release

US: Coast Guard helicopter near Honolulu struck by laser during search

A Coast Guard helicopter on a search mission was illuminated by a laser on November 23 2013, while off the coast of Waimanalo Bay near Honolulu. The green beam swept the aircraft and one crew member was directly struck. The crew was able to continue the mission.

The perpetrator was not located.

This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.

From KITV

UK: Man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter over Trowbridge

A 30-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a Wiltshire air ambulance flying over Trowbridge on November 22 2013.

The helicopter crew was on a training exercise so it was able to turn around and identify the laser’s location. Ground officers arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.

From the Bath Chronicle and This Is Wiltshire

New Zealand: UPDATED - Man arrested for 'painting' police helicopter with laser

The police Eagle helicopter was ‘laser painted” by a blue laser, early in the morning of December 1 2013. The laser came from the central business district of Auckland. A 44-year-old man was arrested and charged with interfering with the helicopter with reckless disregard for the safety of its occupants.

From the New Zealand Herald

UPDATE May 30 2014: Kristian Larsen was sentenced on May 30 to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. Police said the pilot was momentarily blinded and had a headache the day after the December 1 2013 lasing. The judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.” From the New Zealand Herald

Scotland: UPDATED - Investigators "not ruling out" laser in Glasgow pub helicopter crash

Lasers are being considered as a possible factor in the November 29 2013 fatal crash of a police helicopter into the Clutha pub in Glasgow, Scotland. The Daily Mail reports that “investigators refused to rule out foul play as they examined possible causes of the crash, including whether the pilot was shot at or blinded by a ‘laser pen’.”

While early reports indicated there may have been an engine malfunction, the paper wrote “... there were also fears the horrific accident could have been caused by a powerful green laser beam from a pen-like device shone into the eyes of the pilot – or even a firearm. There have been an increasing number of near-misses caused by the blinding laser devices in recent months.”

No witnesses or other evidence have thus far emerged to implicate the aiming of lasers at the aircraft as a contributing factor. The Daily Mail said Police Scotland investigators “will ‘retain an open mind.’”

From a December 1 article in the Daily Mail, updated 2:24 EST on Dec. 2.

LaserPointerSafety.com has a selected list of laser/aircraft incidents in
Scotland and in the U.K. Additional incidents, in other countries and sorted by various keywords, can be found by clicking the blue category and tag links in the News Index section on the left-hand side of the white part of this page.

UPDATED - December 3 2013: An article in the Scotsman, speculating on causes of the crash, includes this quote: “Charles Newport, consultant for Aviation Network Associates, said: ‘Quite possibly it could be pilot error, that’s the only other factor I can think of. The aircraft could have been flying too low and the pilot could have become disorientated. He could have been blinded by a laser. To me, it seems to be a catastrophe of some sort, unless the pilot had a heart attack. Until they look at the body and carry out pathology tests, and look at the aircraft, there’s little you can do apart from speculate.’”

UPDATED - February 14 2014: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch released a Special Bulletin, stating the accident occurred when both engines flamed out. One of the fuel tanks was empty and the other had 0.4 kg of fuel left in it. From a Wikipedia article about the crash

UPDATED - June 2 2014: An Edinburgh man was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for aiming his green laser pen at the police helicopter on October 1 2013. There is no link between that incident, and the same helicopter crashing into the pub on November 29 2013.

UK: Barrister expelled for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was expelled as a barrister, for offences that included pointing a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter in August 2011.

Mohammed Arif Riaz pleaded guilty to aiming at the aircraft. In June 2013 he was sentenced to eight months in prison, in Birmingham Crown Court.

The Bar Standards Board, acting on November 13 2013, also found Riaz had failed to declare criminal convictions that occurred in 2004. The Board said he acted with “astonishing recklessness” and “conduct discreditable to a barrister.”

From the Express and Star

US: Texas police helicopter returns to scene of lasing, gets lased again; teen arrested

On October 23 2013, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter saw a laser beam targeting the aircraft as it flew near Odessa. Officers on the ground did not find him, so the next night, the helicopter flew over the same area at the same time. A laser was again pointed at them.

Officers on the ground found a teenage suspect who admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter. They arrested Joey Martin, 19, and charged him with illumination of aircraft by intense light.

From NewsWest9.com

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the second story in October 2013 where law enforcement flew special helicopter missions to draw out a laser perpetrator. The other case involved a complex, multi-agency supervision of a suspect in Portland, Oregon. This could be a coincidence -- such missions probably have been flown in the past. But it may also indicate that law enforcement is becoming more proactive and determined to locate and arrest perpetrators.

US: UPDATED - Ohio man arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter

A man was arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter that was filming an October 11 2013 football game at Hubbard (Ohio) High School. The cameraman told police the laser light entered his eyes. He was able to direct police to the laser location, about 1 mile southeast of the stadium.

The FBI was notified. The unnamed man was charged on October 17 2013 with interfering with a flight crew, which is a second-degree felony.

Hubbard is about 5 miles northeast of Youngstown, Ohio.

From the Youngstown News

UPDATED February 20 2014: The man, Nicholas Vecchiarelli, pleaded not guilty to obstructing official business. (News accounts did not say what happened to the charge of interfering with a flight crew.) He was ordered by a judge to stay away from lasers. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

US: Oregon man, 46, arrested for lasing Coast Guard boat and helicopter

A 46-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser from his car, towards a Coast Guard motor lifeboat and helicopter that were conducting training exercises in Depoe Bay, Oregon on October 16 2013. The Coast Guard crew who were exposed were prevented from returning to duty until after being medically examined.

Henry Luther Cole Jr. was found parked near a seawall. He was charged with violating a restraining order, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $40,000. The case was referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which is looking into possible federal charges.

Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles southwest of Portland. It promotes its six-acre harbor as the “world’s smallest”, according to its Wikipedia entry.

From the Statesman Journal and a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office

US: Texas woman arrested for aiming laser at a Border Patrol helicopter

A 20-year-old woman was arrested for shining a laser at a Border Patrol helicopter in Brownsville, Texas, around October 7 2013.

Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz laser
Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz


Police had received an emergency call stating that someone was pointing a laser directly at an aircraft. Brownsville police went to the address and found Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz, who admitted that she aimed at the helicopter but “did not think that it would reach that far.” She was arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

From ValleyCentral.com

Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules

A Crown Court judge sentenced a 28-year-old Belfast man to eight-months in jail, suspended for two years, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter as it flew over the site of the MTV European Music Awards on November 6 2011.

The helicopter had been patrolling the crowd outside Odyssey Arena when Aaron McCrory aimed his laser pen at the aircraft. According to the prosecutor, McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. When questioned, McCrory first blamed children for aiming the laser, then admitted he had done it but handed over a different laser from the one used to hit the aircraft.

McCrory’s defense lawyer said the act was not done deliberately or out of animosity, but he was “messing about and that was reckless.”

At sentencing on October 7 2013, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said McCrory was “foolish and unthinking…. If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all onboard could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity.”

Performers inside the Odyssey Arena included Coldplay, LMFAO, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Adam Lambert, and Queen.

From UTV

Australia: Two Melbourne men charged for aiming laser from car at police helicopter

Four men were arrested for aiming a laser beam from a moving car, at a police helicopter in Melbourne on October 5 2013.

A 20-year-old man from Preston was charged with interfering with conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon. An 18-year-old man from Coburg will be charged on summons with possessing a prohibited weapon. The other two men were released without charges.

From ABC News

Australia: Adelaide-area man arrested for aiming laser at a police helicopter

A 28-year-old man was arrested September 28 2013 after he aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter which was conducting a search in Evanston, SA (about 22 miles north of Adelaide). The man’s location was made known to ground officers, who found and arrested the perpetrator. He was charged with endangering safety of an aircraft and possessing a prohibited weapon.

From the Herald-Sun and Sky News

US: UPDATED - 18 months in prison for Texas man who lased helicopter

On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident.

The helicopter had been conducting a training exercise. The laser light went in the pilots’ eyes and disoriented them. Pilot Bryan Minnear thought he was under attack. In a statement to the court, he wrote: “My first thought was that we would soon hear and feel the impact of bullets hitting the helicopter. At our altitude we had no way of knowing it was a laser pointer, not a weapon…. Why someone would choose to target any aircraft, much less one performing critical work for the public is beyond my understanding.”

From The Monitor. An press release about the sentence, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on September 25 2013, is here. The original LaserPointerSafety.com report of the March 7 2013 incident is here.

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

Germany: Teen on Berlin roof lases three aircraft; is released to parents

Three Air Berlin aircraft were hit by a laser beam while landing at Berlin Tegel Airport on September 8 2013. The pilots were reported to have been blinded. A helicopter located the source, a 14-year-old boy on a rooftop about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the airport. It is unclear whether the laser was also aimed at the helicopter.

The teen admitted to ground officers that he had lased the aircraft. His laser pointer was confiscated and he was handed over to his parents. He faces an investigation for “a serious intervention into the air.”

An airport spokesperson said that there were 27 laser incidents in Berlin during 2012, and 261 in all of Germany.

From BZ-Berlin (original German text and Google-translated English text) and T-Online (original German text and Google-translated English text)

Australia: Perth-area man hampers search by aiming laser twice at police helicopter

A search for a missing elderly person in a Perth suburb was disrupted when a police helicopter was twice hit by a laser pointer beam. At about 6:50 pm on September 6 2013, the aircraft was helping in the search when it was hit the first time. It left to do a different task, and came back about 40 minutes later. It was then hit again.

At the same time, several commercial aircraft in the same area reported being hit.

The helicopter directed ground officers to a property in Koondoola. They seized a laser pointer and charged a 36-year-old man with causing fear with laser or light to people in conveyances.

From 7 News and the Herald Sun

Canada: Two Edmonton incidents highlight increased aiming at police

Police in Edmonton held a news conference to discuss the increasing risk to their flight operations. As of September 9 2013, there have been 10 such incidents. This compares with 9 incidents in all of 2012, and 4 incidents in 2011.

These are the two most recent Edmonton incidents:

  • On September 6 2013, the city police Air-1 helicopter was repeatedly hit by a laser in the west Edmonton area. Two teens were arrested, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female; charges are pending.

  • On September 7 2013, multiple arrests were made after Air-1 was hit for several minutes in north Edmonton. Three males, aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged with assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.

During the press event, police said that users ignore warnings that come with lasers, that they often don’t realize or understand the hazard, that a ban on lasers is not the answer, and that their pilots do fly with laser protective eyewear. Details are at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.

US: 21-year-old arrested in Phoenix; says he didn't know pointing lasers at aircraft is illegal

Antonio Rodriguez, 21, was arrested on two counts of endangerment for illuminating a Phoenix Police helicopter on September 10 2013. The aircraft was patrolling when it was hit by a green laser beam. The beam was traced back to an apartment complex where ground units found Rodriguez.

He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.

Antonio Rodriguez laser
Antonio Rodriguez

From MyFoxPhoenix.com

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: UPDATED - Jail and probation for Kentucky man who pointed laser gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50, pleaded guilty on September 4 2013 to second-degree wanton endangerment. On August 24 2013, while working as a security guard, French aimed a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range. The laser’s light hit the cockpit three times.

The Lexington, Kentucky man was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser.

French avoided federal criminal prosecution (with a potential penalty of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine) by pleading guilty in state court. He still may face civil fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From Lex18.com and Kentucky.com. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of his August 13 2013 arrest is here.

UK: £250 fine for aiming laser pen at helicopter with police on board

On September 5 2013, a 25-year-old Ryhope man was fined £250 (USD $390) for aiming a laser pen at a helicopter being flown for Northumbria Police. Gavin Brace had pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Click to read more...

Australia: $10,000 fine after Woodvale man aims laser at police helicopter

Christopher Manning, 40, was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,140) on September 4 2013, for causing fear with a laser or light.

On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.

From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine

US: Four arrests in Phoenix for lasing of helicopter using laser gunsight

Four persons were arrested in Phoenix on September 1 2013, for aiming the red beam from a .45 caliber handgun’s laser aiming sight at a police helicopter. The vision of the pilot and observer was temporarily blocked.

Ground officers found the four in a midtown apartment complex. Two men, Peter Ospitale, 28, and Paul Word, 31, were arrested for investigation of endangerment. Two women, Mary Grace and Marci Gomez, both 28, were arrested for investigation of obstructing government operations.

Peter Ospitale laserPaul Word laser
L-R: Peter Ospitale, Paul Word

Mary Grace laserMarci Gomez laser
L-R: Mary Grace, Marci Gomez


From MyFoxPhoenix.com, KHPO, and KJZZ

UK: Teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 15-year-old boy from Sunderland (in Tyne and Wear) was arrested on August 27 2013 for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter on Wearside. He was charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft. A court date of September 19 2013 was set.

From BBC News Tyne and Wear

UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress

A police helicopter was searching Hebburn (in Tyne and Wear) on May 8 2013 for a missing 11-year-old boy, when the cockpit filled with green laser light. The crew was startled and the pilot changed course. The beam was traced to a home in Hebburn. In a back bedroom, ground officers found two persons on a bed, 18-year-old Victoria Rayner and her 25-year-old boyfriend Robert Gilbert. Both denied having a laser pen. After a struggle during the arrest, officers found the laser pen under the mattress.

On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - "Bored" Kentucky man jailed for testing laser gunsight range on police helicopter

A 50-year-old man was arrested for wanton endangerment August 24 2013, after he aimed his laser gunsight at a Lexington (Ky.) Police helicopter. Steven French was working as a security guard on a construction site. He told police he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range.

Steven French laser
Steven French

From WKYT

UPDATED August 26 2013: WKYT interviewed the helicopter pilot, Sgt. Scott May. He told the station he was “shocked” when he heard the laser was attached to a loaded 9mm pistol. He said “When you combine the two elements of laser and gun, it’s quite alarming to us…. Now, the next time this happens, we’ve got to step back and say, ‘Is there a gun attached to this laser.’ “ From WKYT

UPDATED September 10 2013:
French pleaded guilty on September 4 2013. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser. Additional details are here.

UK: Two arrested in Maidenhead for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Two males were arrested August 20 2013 for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter in Maidenhead, a town about 12 miles west-northwest of London Heathrow Airport. They were arrested on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft; in addition, a laser pen was seized. A 17-year-old was bailed until September 10 while the other male arrested was released without charge.

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said this was the first incident he had heard of in “a long time” in the area.

From the Maidenhead Advertiser

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

UK: Man arrested in Great Yarmouth for aiming laser pen 7-8 times at police helicopter

A 34-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser pen at a National Air Support helicopter as it flew over Gorleston on August 21 2013. The pilot and crew were dazzled seven or eight times from the laser light. They were able to guide ground officers to the man’s home in Great Yarmouth. The unnamed individual was spotted aiming at the helicopter, and was arrested; his laser pen was also seized.

A Norfolk police spokeswoman said “He has received a caution for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.”

From the Norwich Evening News 24

US: Denver police "swarm" a home after blue laser is aimed at airplane

“Police came from every direction” to search a west Denver home, after a pilot reported a laser beam aimed at an airplane on August 15 2013. A police helicopter responding to the report was able to locate an active laser and guided ground units to the home. According to a TV report, as police swarmed the home the “neighbors had no idea what was happening.”

One neighbor interviewed said a man had aimed a “bright blue light” at her children. A woman in the police-targeted house said her son-in-law was contacted by police but could not say if he was charged. She did say that police said they would turn the case over to the FBI.

The house is located about 21 miles southwest of Denver International Airport.

According to the FAA, there were 32 Denver-area laser/aircraft incidents during 2012, compared with 41 from January 1 to August 15 2013.

From Fox31 Denver

US: Second Philadelphia arrest in a week for lasing a police helicopter

For the second time in a week, a Philadelphia man has been arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter. Jose Feliciano, 19, is accused of illuminating the aircraft with a green laser beam at about 8:30 pm on August 15 2013. Police said "The light hit the officers in the eyes, causing pain and temporary loss of vision.”

Jose Feliciano laser
Jose Feliciano


Feliciano was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, and "related offenses." He could also face federal charges.

This comes four days after 20-year-old Luis Martinez was arrested for a similar type of police helicopter illumination.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

US: Two airliners and helicopter hit by laser light in vicinity of Newark airport

Two commercial airliners on approach to Newark's airport were hit by lasers on August 15 2013. In addition, a private helicopter was also illuminated the same evening, about 22 miles away. There were no reported injuries or eye effects.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at 9:20 pm the helicopter was about 10 miles south of Newark Liberty International Airport when it was illuminated with a green and white laser at 1,600 feet.

About a half hour later, a Boeing 737 and an Embraer 135 were targeted with a green laser while on final approach to Newark Liberty airport. They were at an altitude of 3,000 feet, one mile east of Teterboro Airport.

The two incidents are probably unrelated, since Teterboro Airport is about 13 miles north-northeast of Newark Liberty, and the helicopter was 10 miles south of Newark Liberty.

From The Republic

US: Two persons arrested, one charged for aiming a laser at a Philadelphia police helicopter

Two persons were arrested August 11 2013 after a Philadelphia police helicopter was targeted with a green laser beam. The aircraft was searching for a woman reported to be screaming; this was later determined to be a false report. The helicopter officers were hit with the green beam. They tried to elude it but it remained aimed at them, interfering with their vision and instruments.

Luis Martinez laser
Luis Martinez


Ground units arrested Luis Martinez, 20 and an unnamed other person. Martinez was charged with aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. He also could be charged on federal counts.

From WPVI

Australia: Perth-area man hits police helicopter multiple times, is arrested

A 40-year-old man from the Woodvale area of Perth was arrested August 3 2013 for the offense of using a portable device to direct a visible lasers at or near a conveyance. The Western Australia police helicopter was patrolling Woodvale at about 10 pm. It was hit several times with a laser light. About five minutes later it was hit again. A forward-looking infrared camera was used to locate the unnamed suspect.

From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today

UK: Man in parked car aims laser pen at West Midlands police helicopter

A 25-year-old man from Nechells, an inner-city area of Birmingham, was arrested August 6 2013 after he aimed a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter. The incident occurred at 11:30 pm in Edgbaston, an affluent area of Birmingham. The laser beam came from a parked car. Ground officers arrested Abdulhamid Ansi, a factory worker, on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. A court date was set for August 21 2013.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, there have been over 220 laser incidents in the West Midlands "in the last two years", as of July 3 2013.

Arrest report from the Birmingham Mail and West Midlands Police; CAA statistics from an earlier Birmingham Mail article

Canada: Teen arrested in Calgary for temporarily blinding police pilot with laser

19-year-old Michael Sanche was arrested on five charges after illuminating a Calgary police helicopter three times on August 1 2013. Police said there is no known motive although alcohol may have been a factor.

Calgary police laser protective anti-laser goggle glasses
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights


During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.

Click to read more...

Canada: Richmond Hill teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Nima Serghani, 19, was arrested on charges that include mischief endangering life, for aiming a laser pen at the York Regional Police Helicopter on July 21 2013. The pilot, who was helping with a weapons call, left the area to ensure the safety of the crew and aircraft. Ground officers entered a home, found a bright-light source and drug-related items. A court date was set for August 2013.

Pic 2013-07-31 at 5.34.52 PM
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.


From 680news.com and YorkRegion.com. Thanks also to Kevin Smith for informing us as to which York (U.K. or Canada) was involved!

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 - Laser pointer aimed at medical helicopter by Ohio man

A 32-year-old man was indicted by a Cleveland federal grand jury July 24 2013 for aiming a laser pointer at an emergency helicopter approaching Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio on June 15 2013. The man, Travis D. Krzysztofiak, had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.

UPDATED January 28 2014 -- Krzysztofiak pleaded guilty on Jan 27 2014 to one count of aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, a felony charge. He will be sentenced on May 6 2014. From Vindy.com

UPDATED August 26 2016 — Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records. From WFMJ.COM
Click to read more...

US: 30 months for Dallas man who lased helicopter "to see how far it would go"

Kenneth Santodomingo was sentenced July 25 2013 to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter.

A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.

“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.

US: UPDATED - Omaha man sentenced to two years for aiming laser at aircraft and helicopter

Michael A. Smith of Omaha was sentenced July 22 2013 to two years in federal prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft.

The sentencing came a little over one year after the July 11 2012 lasings in which Smith -- 29 at the time -- aimed a red laser pointer at a Southwest Airlines aircraft, and subsequently six or seven times at an Omaha police department helicopter that was trying to find the perpetrator. The conviction and sentence appear to be for the helicopter incident only.

In addition, Omaha.com reported that Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

For the July 11 2012 incident, he could have received a five-year sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

More information is in our stories on the original search for Smith and on his April 24 2013 conviction.

From KETV, WOWT News and Omaha.com. Thanks to Jack Dunn, Greg Makhov and John Neff for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATED June 27 2014 - A federal appeals court upheld the two-year sentence. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Michael Smith’s assertion that he didn’t believe the laser would reach the aircraft. The court said the February 14 2012 federal law doesn’t require prosecutors to show that he intended to hit the aircraft. From The Republic.

Australia: Sydney-area man arrested for pointing laser at police helicopter

A 36-year-old man was arrested in Greenacre, about 15 km from Sydney, one day after a laser pointer was aimed at the New South Wales Police Force’s PolAir2 helicopter on July 20 2013. The helicopter crew contacted Barkstown Police with the location. On July 21, the police executed a search warrant at the address and arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with acting to threaten the safety of an aircraft/person. He was freed on bail and will appear in court on August 21 2013.

From the New South Wales Police Force and News.com.au

Egypt: Dozens of laser pointers aimed at helicopters during protest

Egyptian protesters aimed dozens of laser pointers at military helicopters overflying the crowd, on July 1 2013. This appears to be the first time that multiple laser pointers have been deliberately converged on aircraft. There were no immediate reports of injuries to the air crews, or of the laser light causing the pilots to lose control.

Pic 2013-07-01 at 5.51.00 PM


Complete coverage, including more photos and videos, is in this LaserPointerSafety.com story in the “Statistics, laws, all other news” section.

US: Florida man charged with felony after lasing sheriff's helicopter

A 20-year-old man from Plant City, Florida was charged with a third degree felony for aiming a laser device at a St Lucie County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, around June 27 2013. The penalty is up to five years in jail and a $200,000 fine.

Brian Alan Hart laser
Brian Alan Hart


The helicopter was on routine patrol over Fort Pierce when someone in a black pickup truck pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft, twice. Ground deputies arrested front seat passenger Brian Alan Hart, who had a green laser pointer in his boot. The arresting officer told hard the light could have caused a crash. Hart apologized and said that “he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had done.”

A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said laser incidents “happen about once a month.”

Pic 2013-06-28 at 3.09.07 PM
The “A” marks the location of the incident.


From TCPalm.com and WPTV.com

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

Canada: Oshawa man facing charges (for daytime lasing?) of helicopter

A 44-year-old Oshawa man was charged with assault with a weapon, mischief endangering life, common nuisance and obstructing police after a June 14 2013 incident. The Durham Regional Police Service helicopter Air-1 was hit by a laser beam several times while patrolling above Oshawa.

Unusually, the laser illumination was said to have taken place at noon, according toThe Star.

Crew on the helicopter directed ground officers to a parking lot where Richard McIntosh was arrested. His green Class IIIB laser was seized by police.

From The Star and 680 News

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although The Star stated the incident took place at noon, this could be a misreading of the time on the police report. We have seen other stories where one news outlet said an incident occurred during daytime while others reported (correctly) that the time was, for example, 12:45 AM and not 12:45 PM.

US: Orlando-area tourist arrested for lasing helicopter during search mission

A tourist from Asheboro, North Carolina was arrested in Kissimmee, Florida (south of Orlando and east of Walt Disney World) on June 25 2013, and was charged with pointing a laser device at a pilot.


Ryan Paul Lucas - laser
Ryan Paul Lucas


The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department was searching for two missing boaters at around 11 pm. The pilot and observer said a green laser light blinded them three times. They were able to locate the source, a vacation rental property.

Deputies entered the house where Ryan Paul Lucas gave them the laser. The Sheriff’s Department quoted Lucas as telling the deputies that he “messed up and should not have shined the light at the helicopter.” Lucas was arrested and booked. One report said Lucas was 20 years old; another said he was 21.

The missing boaters were safety located, though it is not known whether they were found by the helicopter crew.

Pic 2013-06-26 at 7.40.44 PM
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World


From AroundOsceola.com and Central Florida News Channel 13

US: UPDATED - Phoenix police helicopter lased twice in one night; one arrest made

A Phoenix police department helicopter was illuminated twice in one night by a laser beam, early in the morning of May 29 2013. No arrest was made in the first incident, which occurred shortly after midnight. Two hours later, and 15 miles away by air, the helicopter was once again illuminated. An unidentified man was arrested in the second incident. A police spokesperson said there was no immediate indication of any crew injury in either incident.

Pic 2013-05-29 at 2.40.36 PM

The first incident occurred at the red square location, the second incident occurred two hours and 15 miles away at the green triangle location.


From MyFoxPhoenix.com

UPDATE May 30 2013 - An arrest was made in the second incident. Ralph Rubi, Jr., 37, of Phoenix was arrested on three charges of endangerment. Police said they found a laser device in his home, and that Rubi was a suspect in a previous incident involving a helicopter landing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. From RTT News, AZfamily.com, and CBS 5.

Pic 2013-06-27 at 3.53.15 PM
Ralph Rubi



Australia: Suspended sentence for man who lased helicopter 30 times

A man from Ormeau, Queensland, on May 9 2013 was given a three-month suspended jail sentence with a three-year good behavior bond, after being convicted of threatening the safety of persons on board an aircraft.

On December 28 2012, two commercial aircraft reported being illuminated by laser beams. They notified police, who sent a helicopter to investigate. A laser beam was aimed at the helicopter up to 30 times over a five minute period. The beam was traced to the Ormeau home of Jason Gavin, 38. The laser was found, hidden, during a search. It was confiscated by police. (Gavin later was convicted of a lesser charge of possessing a restricted item.)

Gavin pleaded guilty to the charge of threatening safety. During sentencing the judge said the plea showed that Gavin had taken personal responsibility for his actions. But past charges of careless driving and minor criminal activity also showed “you have a history that shows in the past you’ve put people at risk,” the judge said. “I don’t think you need to be a person that understands E=mc2 to understand the risk of pointing a laser at aircraft.”

From SkyNews

US: Columbus man indicted for lasing police helicopter

A man was indicted May 10 2013 for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus (Ohio) police helicopter. Michael Rademacher, 27, faces one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser, and one count of possession of criminal tools. (It was not clear if the laser was the “criminal tool.”) He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted on both counts.

The incident happened March 21 2013, when officers in the helicopter were hit by the bright blue beam. They were startled but were able to regain their composure and located the source as Rademacher’s home. Ground officers searched the home and recovered a “high-powered laser.”

From 10TV.com and the Columbus Dispatch

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 - Omaha man convicted of July 2012 airliner, helicopter lasing

30-year-old Michael A. Smith of Omaha, Nebraska was convicted April 24 2013 in federal court, for multiple instances of aiming a laser pointer at an airliner and a police helicopter. He will be in jail until his sentencing, scheduled for July 22 2013. Smith could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w

A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.


On July 11 2012, a Southwest Airlines pilot was lased as he came in for a landing in Omaha. Subsequently, an Omaha Police Department helicopter was also lased six or seven times, with the pilot reporting being temporarily blinded. Smith was arrested in his backyard by a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy.

From KETV and Omaha.com. LaserPointerSafety.com originally reported on this in July 2012, when police had not yet arrested Smith. The photo above is from that story.

UPDATED July 22 2013: Michael Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft. From KETV and WOWT News.

US: UPDATED - 2 years probation in May 2012 St. Louis helicopter lasing

A St. Louis area man was sentenced on April 11 2013 to two year’s probation, two months home confinement and 40 hours of community service.

On May 18 2012, Michael Brandon Smith, then 35 years old, aimed a green laser beam at a St. Louis Metro Air Support helicopter that was investigating a burglary. The beam illuminated the cockpit several times. The vision of the pilot and observer was affected; the observer later said he had short-term vision problems. Ground units arrested Smith -- still with the laser in his hand -- at his residence in O’Fallon, Missouri. The incident diverted the helicopter from the burglary investigation.

Smith pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2012 to one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.

From STLtoday.com and The Republic. The story was originally briefly reported in LaserPointerSafety.com.

UK: Middlesbrough man "defiant" after suspended jail term for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A Middlesbrough man who lased a Cleveland Police helicopter appeared "defiant", according to the Daily Star, after he received a six-month suspended sentence. Jack Waistle, 21, had pleaded guilty to a charge of endangering an aircraft. He had pointed a laser pen at the helicopter, forcing the pilot to change direction to avoid the bright light.

During the April 10 2013 court hearing, Waistle was said to be “very scared about what could happen to him”. Recorder Graham Cook said “You are right to be scared, you could easily be going behind that door” meaning jail. Instead, Waistle received a six-month suspended sentence plus 150 hours of unpaid work.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.47.37 AM


Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.

From the Daily Star

US: Philadelphia man jailed 3 months for July 2012 lasing of news helicopter

Daniel Dangler, 30, of Philadelphia was sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter. This sentence was handed down as a result of the February 14 2012 federal legislation making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.06.30 AM
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler


On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.

He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.

The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.

Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”

From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.

For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.

Click to read more...

US: Alice, TX men face felony charges for Dec. 2012 helicopter lasing

The FBI announced on April 1 2013 that two men from Alice, Texas have been charged under federal law with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The men, Joshua Nathaniel Vela and Jon David Lopez, both 21, could receive up to five years in federal prison and up to $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, on December 27 2012 each man aimed a laser pointer at the Halo Flight medical helicopter.

From an FBI Houston Division press release. Thanks to Chuck Maricle of AixiZ for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - Texas men arrested for lasing Homeland Security helicopter while high

Two Texas men were arrested on March 7 2013 after allegedly aiming a green laser three times at a Department of Homeland Security helicopter flying near Donna, Texas. The beam temporarily blinded the pilot, who was wearing night vision goggles. He took evasive action to avoid the beam. He was able to identify the vehicle from which the laser was aimed, and directed ground units to its location.

Margarito Tristan laser Eugene Uresti laser
Tristan, left, and Uresti


Margarito Tristan III, 23, was charged with illuminating an aircraft with a laser pointer, impairing the operator, and with possession of marijuana. Eugene Uresti, 22, was charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication. A third occupant of the car was released with no charges filed.

Tristan told arresting officers that he was trying to hit a star with the laser.

From the Houston Chronicle

UPDATED September 25 2013: Tristan was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his prison term. Details are here.

US: UPDATED - Guilty plea for Dallas man who aimed green laser pointer at helicopter

22-year-old Kenneth Santodomingo pleaded guilty on February 28 2013, to aiming a green laser pointer several times at a Dallas police helicopter that had been searching for car burglary suspects on January 28 2013. The light spread across the windscreen and obscured the pilot’s vision.

Pic 2013-04-02 at 2.30.01 AM

The entire video from the Air One helicopter can be seen
here at YouTube.


The incident was captured on video. Above is a still frame from the video, showing the maximum laser impingement on the camera. (It should be noted that this is a very brief and atypical freeze frame; for most of the video the laser is waving around but is not aimed directly into the camera lens.)


Kenneth Santodomingo laser
Kenneth Santodomingo


When arrested, he was clad only in his boxer shorts. Santodomingo told officers “I wanted to see how far it [the laser’s beam] would go.” Sentencing is scheduled for July 25 2013; he could receive up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

From NBCDFW.com and the Dallas Morning News

UPDATED July 25 2013: Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

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...

Northern Ireland: 6-month suspended sentence for east Belfast man

A 26-year-old old man from east Belfast was given a 6-month suspended jail sentence in late October 2012, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter on August 17 2010. Michael Jackson pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft. His sentence was suspended because he is a full-time caregiver for his mother-in-law.

The judge warned that “those who target aircraft in this dangerous and reckless way should expect to go to prison.”

Jackson’s lawyer said the laser was aimed at the helicopter for a total of 37 seconds, in flashes lasting 1-2 seconds each, over a 17-minute period.

According to the prosecutor, pilots are required to have an eye test after a laser incident, before being cleared to fly again. Jackson was ordered to pay £30 to cover the cost of the pilot’s eye test.

From 4NI.co.uk

US: UPDATED - Orlando man acquitted of aiming at sheriff's helicopter

A 23-year-old Orlando man was charged in late October 2012, with aiming a laser into the cockpit of a Seminole (Florida) County Sheriff's Department helicopter on July 17 2012. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the federal offense.

From SFGate.com and Catholic Online

UPDATED May 3 2013: The man was acquitted January 8 2013 in U.S. District Court . He wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com in May, asking that his name be removed from the above article, due to it causing difficulty when looking for work. We have removed his name and the link URLs out of courtesy, since he was acquitted. The acquittal judgment, with his name redacted, can be viewed here.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION from LaserPointerSafety.com: On May 3 2013, I spoke with the person; for convenience, I will call him "John Doe." The following is his account, based on his perspective.

On July 17 2012 he was on the phone. As he talked, he idly swung his 5 milliwatt green laser pointer back and forth in the sky. He was not aiming at anything, it was just on and swinging.

Later, a police officer came to him saying that a sheriff's department helicopter had said they saw a laser from his location. She asked if he had a laser. Doe said yes, and showed her how he had used it. She felt it was an accident and left. He did not have to surrender the laser.

In August, two FBI agents came to see him. An agent said, "You are being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as a threat to the United States."

He was charged with a federal felony in late October 2012. When it came to trial on January 8 2013, there were police officers, plus the two FBI agent, and federal prosecutor. They showed a ten-minute video from the helicopter. Doe said you could not see the beam, just a dot that looks like any other light on the ground, which at one point got brighter.

The trial lasted about three hours. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence, and he was formally acquitted.

Doe did say, "Definitely people should be very careful as these lasers are not toys, but It would be one thing if my intent was malicious and I had a very powerful laser. Then, calling this a felony and having a five-year penalty would be justified for a high powered laser. There needs to more public awareness on the issue.”

UK: Laser "injury" reported to Manton helicopter pilot

A news report stated that a helicopter pilot was “injured” on November 11 2012 while flying over Manton, in the East Midlands. According to the story, a police spokesperson said “The pilot suffered adverse effects to his vision in one eye but no lasting damage. Thankfully he was able to land the helicopter safely.”

Police are seeking information about the incident.

From the Trader & Guardian

Australia: $20,000 fine for Perth-area couple who aimed laser at police helicopter

A couple from the Perth suburb of Port Kennedy were fined AUS $10,000 each on October 25 2012, for lasing a Rockingham Police helicopter. The two were charged with causing fear with an object or substance to people in conveyances or others.

On July 20 2012, the Polair 61 helicopter was patrolling when it was hit by the laser beam. The pilot took evasive action. The crew was able to identify the source. Ground crews arrested 29-year-old Patricia Giguere and 31-year-old Clemens Trauttmansdorff. They first denied having a laser, then eventually surrendered to police.

Patricia Giguere laser
Patricia Giguere demonstrates how she aimed the laser from her porch


In an interview, Giguere said she and Trauttmansdorff had bought the laser in Bali. They did not think the beam could reach the helicopter. Giguere was in Australia on a partner provisional visa. She said the conviction could jeopardize her chances of staying in the country.

News reports gave conflicting information on the frequency of laser incidents in the area. A Police Air Wing pilot said “laser attacks took place at least twice a week, and sometimes up to five times a night.” However, the Rockingham Police officer-in-charge said laser incidents “don’t happen very often.”

From the West Australian and InMyCommunity.com

US: Kentucky student arrested in dorm for endangering police helicopter

A 19-year-old student was arrested in his University of Louisville dorm room, for illuminating a police helicopter three times on October 21 2012. The pilot turned the helicopter away from the light, then was able to fly to the source location. Jeffry Ledington was charged with two felony counts of wanton endangerment.

The laser was described as “about 10 inches long and about as big around as a thumb.”

From The Republic and WAVE3.com

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.

New Zealand: UPDATED - 19 & 21 year olds found guilty of lasing police helicopter

Two New Zealand men were found guilty on November 10 2012 of “causing unnecessary danger to an aircraft” in a May 2011 lasing of a police helicopter. Joshua O’Hare-Knight, 21 and James Spiers, 19, face up to 12 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for February 2013.

A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.

James Spiers Joshua OHare Knight laser
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight


From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.


Scotland: Warning in Strathclyde after helicopter breaks off mission

Strathclyde police warned against misuse of lasers, after an October 31 2012 incident in Lanarkshire. A helicopter investigating a robbery was forced to stand down after being targeted by a laser. The person responsible has not been found.

The November 12 2012 warning noted that “Shining a laser at a force helicopter or other aircraft has the potential to bring that aircraft down…. [I]t could lead to someone being seriously injured or worse.”

From the Evening Times

UK: Man fined £615 for disrupting police burglary call

A 35-year-old Reedswood man was fined £615 on November 12 2012, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in Walsall, on July 21 2012. The helicopter was investigating a burglary when the laser light illuminated the cockpit for several seconds. The pilot moved the craft to avoid the beam. The incident was captured on video.

Ian Collins pleaded guilty to “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot”. He paid a £400 fine plus £200 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

From the Express & Star

US: Laser aimed at medical helicopter near Pittsburgh

A medical helicopter was targeted by a laser pointer, on September 19 2012 in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Brookline. Although police searched for a suspect, no person was caught immediately. The investigation continues.

The director of operations for STAT MedEvac said that the medical helicopter is hit by lasers several times a year, and that the hits “can kill people.”

From WTAE.com

New Zealand: Teen sentenced to home detention

A south Auckland teenager was sentenced on September 21 2012 to 4-1/2 months home detention, for illuminating three aircraft and a police helicopter with a laser.

On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”

Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.

Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”

From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.

UK: 200 hours of community work for South Yorkshire man

A 27-year-old man from Sheffield was sentenced in August 2012 to 200 hours of unpaid community service, and was ordered to pay £85 in court costs, for shining a laser at South Yorkshire’s police helicopter. Neil Shackleton aimed the laser from his bedroom window to the helicopter as it flew two miles away. On-board cameras helped determine the laser’s location, and ground units arrested Shackleton.

Neil Shackleton laser
Neil Shackleton


Police said the action could have caused the helicopter to crash.

Two other cases that happened at about the same time are still in court.

From The Star (and a more detailed, earlier version from The Star)

US: Spokane County searches called off due to laser interference

Searches by the “Air One” helicopter in Spokane County, Washington, are being called off due to laser pointer interference. In July 2012, the helicopter was targeted five times. Other local air crews with MedStar and Fairchild Air Force Base have had trouble as well. Authorities are asking the public for help in stopping the laser strikes.

From KREM

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: Phoenix man gets 90 days in jail for lasing three aircraft

A Phoenix man who bought a laser at a yard sale, and wanted to see how far it could go, was sentenced August 8 2012 for aiming at two commercial aircraft and a police helicopter. Michael Andrew Cerise, 47, will spend 90 days in jail, followed by three years of supervised probation.

Michael Cerise laser
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise


The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.

Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.

Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.

From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.

Canada: Teen arrested in Winnipeg for aiming at police helicopter

An unnamed 19-year-old was arrested for aiming a laser multiple times at a Winnipeg Police Service helicopter on July 25 2012. The lasing happened as the AIR1 helicopter was breaking up a bonfire party in Omand Park. According to CJOB, the crew was able to shield their eyes.

The man was arrested on unspecified charges, most likely assault with a weapon and charges under the Aeronautics Act for aiming a bright light at an aircraft.

This was the fourth lasing incident for AIR 1 since February 1 2011.

From the
Winnipeg Free Press and CJOB

US: Long Island police helicopter hit by 14-year-old boy

A 14-year-old boy from Brentwood aimed a laser at a Suffolk County (Long Island) police helicopter on July 24 2012. The cockpit lit up at least twice before the helicopter crew was able to aim a spotlight at the boy and identify him. Ground officers confiscated the laser and spoke with the teen’s mother. A police spokesperson noted that “the immediate hazard has been removed. It’s unlikely he will repeat this behavior.”

As of July 26 he had not been charged with a crime. However, an investigation is continuing, especially to find out if the boy was responsible for the July 15 lasing of a JetBlue flight that drew nationwide attention.

From Newsday, NBC New York and CBS New York



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

UK: Teen arrested in Blackburn for lasing helicopter

An 18-year-old man was arrested in Blackburn, Lancashire, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter pilot. The aircraft was returning from a mission when the incident occurred. The aircrew tracked the laser and notified ground officers, who approached a group of men traveling in a car. The unnamed teenager was arrested.

From This Is Lancashire

US: UPDATED - Omaha man question but do not arrest man for lasing plane, police helicopter

A man in his late 20’s who authorities believe aimed a laser at an airplane and a police helicopter, possibly on multiple occasions, was questioned after being located by an Omaha (Nebraska) police helicopter. He was released without arrest, though U.S. officials are investigating further.

The incident happened early in the morning of July 11 2012 in the backyard of a home in a suburb northwest of Omaha. As of July 16, no arrest had been made.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w
A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated from the Omaha man. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.


A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said "We're also told he might have been doing this on prior occasions. And on those occasions, it involved planes flying into Eppley [Airfield]. We're going to be investigating those allegations."

From Fox 42 News, KETV 7 and the Omaha World-Herald

UPDATED April 24 2013: Michael A. Smith, 30, was convicted of the July 11 2012 lasing. Sentencing is scheduled for July 22 2013. More is at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

UPDATE 2, July 22 2013: Michael A. Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft. From KETV and WOWT News.

US: UPDATED - Coast Guard makes "emergency landing" after S.C.laser illumination

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, searching for a missing boater near Charleston S.C., made an emergency landing after a laser was aimed into the cockpit from shore on July 16 2012. According to Carolina Live, the Coast Guard requires an eye exam for each person on board after any laser incident. They must then be cleared by a flight surgeon before they can return to flight duty.

The story did not say whether the helicopter crew broke off their mission, or whether they completed the search before the landing. It also does not give a definition or details of the emergency; for example, whether merely having the laser in the cockpit required an emergency landing under Coast Guard procedures, or whether the crew experienced any vision or operational difficulties.

There have been six laser incidents with Savannah air station-based Coast Guard helicopters in the last year and a half, with four of these occurring during searches.

From CarolinaLive.com. In addition to this story, see additional stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach.

UPDATE July 28 2012: A story at Myrtle Beach Online describes the ordeal of the missing boaters, and how lasers twice forced Coast Guard helicopters to break off the search. It also has additional details about Coast Guard procedures once a laser is seen.

UK: 6 month sentence for Weston man

Alexander Nicholls of Weston-super-Mare in Avon, Somerset, was sentenced to six months in prison on July 16 2012, for aiming a blue laser pen at a police helicopter. At about 2 am on May 12 2012, 23-year-old Nicholls was trying to find aircraft when he spotted the helicopter. He illuminated it for about six minutes, according to the prosecutor. The beam hit one of the pilot’s eyes, although no injury was mentioned in news reports. The helicopter crew helped lead ground officers to Nicholls’ house, where the pen was found hidden in a cupboard.

Nicholls’ attorney said he did not mean to intentionally endanger the aircraft. He pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft.

Alexander Nicholls laser
Six month sentence for Alexander Nicholls


The six month sentence was intended as a “deterrent” because “the result could well have been catastrophic,” according to the chair of the bench.

Statistics show that from January through mid-July 2012, there were 31 reported laser incidents in Avon and Somerset, compared with 26 for the same period last year.

From the Weston Mercury

US: UPDATED - Florida man blames stores for selling him a laser pointer

A 44-year-old man was arrested July 15 2012 for aiming a laser pointer at a Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Gary Don Carroll told officers that “he did not understand why the stores would sell a laser pointer if the laser pointer is illegal to use.” The Highland City man was charged under Florida statute 784.062(3a), Misuse of Laser Lighting Devices, which is a third-degree felony.

Gary Don Carroll laser
Gary Don Carroll


From TheLedger.com

UPDATED — On December 17 2014, Gary Don Carroll was arrested for leaving the scene of a fatal crash that occurred on February 22 2014. A 32-year-old man, Eric Wayne Pope of Lakeland, Florida, was killed while riding his bicycle with reflective vest and lights. Analysis of paint chips, completed December 15, pointed to Carroll’s car as being involved. Carroll was also charged with tampering with evidence, for having his truck’s hood and headlight replaced. Carroll has “an extensive criminal arrest history which includes six felony, four misdemeanor, six unknown level arrests, and two failures to appear. He has been in the Polk County jail 10 times before his current arrest.” From the Daily Ridge

Australia: Teen arrested for aiming at Gold Coast police helicopter

A 15-year-old Ashmore boy was arrested for illuminating a police helicopter on June 29 2012. Police said the three crew members were “affected” by the beam. The incident happened in the Gold Coast area of Queensland.

Police looking for the laser source found a group of teenagers. One had a laser pointer and knife. He will be charged under the Youth Justice Act.

From the Herald Sun and Sky News.

UK: £465 fine for 12-minute lasing of police helicopter

On February 11 2012, a police helicopter was flashed with a laser pen over a 12-minute period. The pilots “became completely dazzled” and broke off their search for a burglary suspect to deal with Lukasz Tetich, 28, who was quickly arrested in Croydon, a suburb 10 miles south of London.

At a hearing on June 11 2012, Tetich was fined £465 and his laser pen was ordered to be destroyed.

Lukasz Tetich, laser
Lukasz Tetich


From This Is Croydon Today

US: UPDATED - St. Louis man indicted, faces 5 years for lasing police helicopter

Michael Brandon Smith was indicted June 6 2012 on federal charges of aiming a laser at a Metro St. Louis Air Support helicopter. The 35-year-old resident of O’Fallon, Missouri could be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to $250,000 if found guilty of the May 18 2012 illumination.

From KSDK.com, Riverfront Times, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri

UPDATED April 11 2013: Michael Brandon Smith was sentenced to two year’s probation, two months home confinement and 40 hours of community service. A LaserPointerSafety.com story is here.

Canada: Calgary man gets house arrest in 2010 helicopter lasing case

A Calgary man was sentenced on June 18 2012 to two months house arrest, four months with a 10 pm to 5 am curfew and six months of probation, all resulting from an 2010 laser illumination of a Calgary police helicopter. In addition, Jason John McConnell, 35, will perform 25 hours of community service, will receive counseling, and is not permitted to possess a laser pointer.Click to read more...

US: Two more laser incidents in Oklahoma City - due to copycat?

There have been four laser incidents in six days, in Oklahoma City, as of June 13 2012. The first two incidents, on June 7, were widely publicized in the area after a boy was identified as lasing a medical helicopter and then a police helicopter sent to investigate. Then, on June 10 and 11, police helicopters were illuminated with a green laser. Derrick M. Sullivent, 20, was arrested and charged with two federal counts of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an airplane. The penalty for each charge is up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Such a spate of laserings is unusual, according to an Oklahoma City Police Department spokesperson: “It’s kind of rare that we would have this many all at one time.” Some commenters to a News9.com story speculated that the media attention given to the first two incidents may have triggered the second two.

From News9.now, the Norman Transcript, and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. For a full version of the press release, click the “Read More…” link below.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: It would be interesting for the police to question Sullivent, to find out if he was aware of, or influenced by, the media reports of the June 7 laser incidents.
Click to read more...

UK: August 2011 laser case thrown out due to insufficient evidence

Charges against Nikhil Vadher, 23, were dismissed on June 7 2012 after a court found insufficient evidence proving that he had aimed a laser at a police helicopter.

On August 9 2011, a three-person crew was patrolling over Crawley, West Sussex. The pilot testified that the crew was dazzled three times by “the sort of light that could only have been a laser. I have been subjected to a number of laser attacks.” Camera footage shown in court displayed only a small flash. Vadher’s attorney said that the flash could not be traced to any particular house. He said that even if the light had come from Vadher’s house, there was no evidence that any shining was intentional. Vadher said there was a light coming from his laptop, which was next to his open bedroom window.

After hearing both sides, the judge agreed there was no evidence of the crime, or that Vadher was the person who committed any crime.

Vader told the Crawley News that his life had been on hold since his arrest on a charge of directing a light at an aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot.

From This Is Sussex. The original arrest story from September 7 2011 is here.

US: Boy in Oklahoma City may be in serious trouble for lasing medical helicopter

A boy in Oklahoma City aimed a laser pointer at a medical helicopter headed for Baptist Medical Center on June 7 2012. When a police helicopter went to investigate, it too was hit. Officers were able to locate the boy responsible. Federal authorities are investigating and may bring “serious” charges.

The age of the youth was not reported.

From NewsOn6.com

UK: Bradford man arrested for aiming at West Yorkshire police helicopter

A 25-year-old man from Bradford was arrested June 6 2012 for aiming a laser at a West Yorkshire police helicopter from his bedroom window. The crew was able to direct ground officers to the man’s home. The chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents officers, said “we absolutely deplore this kind of activity.” Andrew Tempest-Mitchell said the lasing “beggars belief” and should be dealt with in the courts.

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

US: Authorities search after St. Louis-area laser incidents

Authorities are trying to find the persons who aimed lasers at aircraft, in three separate incidents on Memorial Day weekend. On May 27 2012, a helicopter was illuminated within three miles of Lambert - St. Louis International Airport. On May 28, a Delta Airlines flight about 12 miles southeast of Lambert was illuminated by a green laser at an altitude of 5,000 feet. A third incident happened in St. Charles County.

A KSDK reporter quoted a St. Louis County Police helicopter pilot as saying “just about everyone who flies gets hit with a laser pointer at some point.” It is not clear if the pilot is referring to police helicopter pilots or to all pilots. (A LaserPointerSafety.com analysis shows that in the U.S., the chance of a pilot seeing a laser beam on any given flight in a single year, as of 2012, is about once in every 14,000 flights. This is based on 50,522,825 operations at U.S. airports Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 according to FAA’s Air Traffic Activity System, divided by 3,591 laser incidents in 2011, to give one incident for every 14,069 operations.)

From KSDK and KMOV

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: Summons for Kansas City man lasing police helicopter

A Kansas City (Missouri) police helicopter was targeted by a green laser as it flew over the downtown area on May 20 2012. Ground units were called to an apartment where Grant P. Doverspike, 24, was issued a summons to appear in court, accused of attempted assault. Doverspike’s laser was also confiscated.

From the Kansas City Star

Australia: Sydney-area man arrested, jailed for lasing police helicopter

A 39-year-old Leumeah man was arrested after illuminating the Polair 3 police helicopter four times with a green laser on May 8 2012. The pilot said he was disoriented after the laser flashes, which occurred at an altitude of 450 meters (1500 feet) while over Leumeah, a suburb southwest of Sydney. The crew used thermal imaging to locate Matthew William Moore. Ground officers arrested him on his front lawn, and located a nearby laser pointer.

Moore pleaded not guilty to possessing or using a prohibited weapon without a permit, and threatening the safety of an aircraft and the person on board. The was refused bail. A court date of June 1 was set.

From the Herald Sun

Northern Ireland: £750 fine for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 28-year-old Dungiven man, Jagpal Irwin, was fined £750 for aiming a laser at a police helicopter on January 30 2012. The pilot said the laser beam was “intensely dazzling”.

Irwin’s barrister said the incident, which was deliberate targeting of the aircraft, occurred due to “sheer stupidity and ignorance”. During his arrest, Irwin told the police he did not know that it was illegal to aim at aircraft.

During the trial, the judge noted that Irwin was “lucky to have escaped jail”. Due to how the charges were brought, Irwin did not face a jail term or a custodial sentence.

From Highland Radio and BBC News Foyle & West

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.

Canada: 15 hours community service for March 2011 Winnipeg lasing

Sheldon Friesen, 27, pleaded guilty on April 30 2012 to directing a bright light at an aircraft. He had lased a police helicopter three times on March 10 2011 with a laser pointer he purchased for 99 cents on eBay.

He was sentenced to 15 hours community service work. He had faced a maximum penalty of CDN $100,000 and up to five years in prison.

Friesen told the court he was testing the range of the laser and did not realize that aiming at a helicopter could be dangerous. The judge agreed, saying “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.”

From the Winnipeg Sun. The original March 2011 story in LaserPointerSafety.com is here.

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

Canada: UPDATED - Police helicopter forced to land after repeated Class 3A laser attacks

A Durham Regional Police helicopter was forced to land after being repeatedly illuminated by a laser, later determined to be Class 3A (maximum power less than 5 milliwatts). The maximum power allowed to be sold as a pointer in Canada is Class 3A.

The April 21 2012 incident happened in Uxbridge, 75 km northeast of Toronto. It was looking for vandals when struck by a laser numerous times over several minutes. The helicopter set down at a nearby police station, and the pilot was taken to a hospital. He was released with no apparent damage, but a police spokesperson said it could take several days for damage to emerge.

20-year-old Melissa Perry of Uxbridge was arrested, and charged with lessening the ability of a crew member to perform duties, interfering with the duties of a crew member, projecting a bright light at an aircraft, mischief endangering life, assault with a weapon and common nuisance. It is unclear from news reports whether Perry was associated with the vandals.

From DurhamRegion.com, Global Toronto and Canada.com

Analysis from LaserPointerSafety.com: If the laser is really Class 3A (less than 5 mW maximum power), the pilot’s eyes were unharmed. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance for a 5 mW laser with a tight 1 milliradian beam is 52 feet. This means that laser safety experts have concluded that no eye injury could occur past 52 feet. If the pilot was airborne, his eyes were likely much farther than 52 feet from the laser. (Global Toronto reported the helicopter was at 5000 feet, but that is very high for vandal surveillance; 500 feet is more reasonable.)
Plus, as explained on the Laser Safety Calculations page, there are additional factors that go into the NOHD. The result of these factors is that a 5 mW laser would have to be within 16.4 feet of a person’s eyes before there was a 50/50 chance of causing a minimally detectable eye injury. This is not opinion; this is scientific fact based on how the NOHD is derived.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: On September 21 2012, Perry pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Aviation Act by shining a bright light at an aircraft. She was fined $500. All other charges were dropped by the Crown. From DurhamRegion.com.

Scotland: Glasgow man jailed for 9 months, for disrupting helicopter search

A 22-year-old Glasgow man was sentenced on April 19 2012 to nine months in jail for deliberately lasing a Strathclyde police helicopter on September 12 2009.

Christopher Paton repeatedly aimed a 40 milliwatt green laser at the aircraft, over a period of about 10 minutes. The light dazzled the pilot and crew, and the flight path was adjusted. The laser was recorded by an on-board camera, enabling Paton’s house in Castlemilk to be pinpointed. The helicopter had been was searching for two lost 4-year-olds in Toryglen. After the search was completed, ground officers were notified. They found Paton in his back garden, where he admitted using the laser and was arrested.

From BBC News

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: Laser aimed at medical helicopter in Ohio

A green laser was shined into the cockpit of a Life Flight medical helicopter as it flew near Findlay, Ohio on March 31 2012. There was no patient on the aircraft at the time. The laser did not cause any injury to the crew. According to a spokesperson for Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, pilots are trained to look away from laser beams.

The FBI office in Lima, Ohio is investigating the incident.

From ReviewTimes.com

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: Jacksonville-area teens arrested for lasing Coast Guard helicopter

Two Jacksonville, Fl. area teenagers were arrested March 22 for illuminating the cabin of a Coast Guard helicopter. The Dauphin MH65D aircraft was operating near the suburb of Orange Park when it was lit up several times by a green laser. The pilots were able to determine the location of the laser, and report it to the Orange Park Sheriff’s Office. They arrested 18-year-old Devon Christopher Joyner and 16-year-old Kalib Taylor Hodge. Both were charged with misuse of a laser light on an aircraft.

According to deputies, a witness had told the teens to stop lasing, because they were breaking the law. It is unknown whether this was told to them before or after they illuminated the helicopter.

From Clay Today

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.

UK: UPDATED - Bristol man tried for forcing police helicopter to land after laser dazzle

A police helicopter pilot had impaired vision from a green laser pen, forcing him to land “at the nearest possible opportunity” in a December 3 2012 incident in the Hartcliffe district of Bristol. On March 20 2012, 31-year-old Stuart Bowering pleaded guilty to negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. Sentencing has not yet been imposed; the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment.

Stuart Bowering laser
Stuart Bowering


Pilot Paul Maddox told Bristol Magistrates’ Court that the light lasted about 15 seconds. An observer crew member said “the shafts of light were moving around the cockpit, restricting me from my task.” They were able to locate Bowering on the ground, where he was arrested. He told officers he had borrowed the laser pen and did not realize the beam would reach to the helicopter. According to his lawyer, Bowering was aware that lasing aircraft was illegal.

From This Is Bristol

Update April 10 2012: Bowering avoided jail “by a whisker” according to the judge, who sentenced him to a 12-month community order. He must attend a Thinking and Skills course, has a 90-day curfew between 9 pm and 6:30 am, and has to repay £200 in court costs. The judge said Bowering had been using the laser to play with his dogs, when he aimed it into the air. The initial illumination of the helicopter was an accident, but then it was repeated, the judge found. The pilot told the court that he had “temporary black spots” in his vision which almost caused him to stray into Bristol Airport’s airspace, which could have caused the diversion of a commercial flight that was on approach. From the Guardian

UK: Laser charges dropped against 3 Bristol teens due to lack of evidence

Charges against three Bristol-area teenagers for aiming a laser beam at a police helicopter were dropped March 19 2012, due to a “lack of sufficient evidence.” The three had been accused of directing or shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot, in the February 14 2012 incident. Released were 19-year-olds Mitchell Saint of Hartcliffe and Daniel Nurse of Fishponds, and 18-year-old Daniel Evans of Speedwell.

From This is Bristol

UK: Keighley man arrested; new calls for laser pen regulations

The West Yorkshire police helicopter “X99” was lased a number of times as it flew over Keighley. Although there may have been two persons involved, police arrested one man, 23, in the March 15 2012 incident.

The arrest led to renewed calls for laser regulations in the U.K. (see related LaserPointerSafety.com news story).

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

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

UK: Six month sentence suspended for Cheshire man

27-year-old Joseph Standish pleaded guilty on January 28 2011 to aiming a green laser at a Cheshire Police helicopter. A police observer on board was disoriented for a few seconds during the August 2010 incident. He was able to use thermal imaging equipment and a low-light lens to track the laser to Standish’s address in Winsford.

Before officers arrived, Standish dropped the laser into a drain. He denied the incident, but went to the Winsford Police Station the next day where he admitted aiming at the helicopter.

Standish was convicted of acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service. The laser pen was confiscated.

From the Police Oracle

UK: Eight months in prison for Maidstone man

A 21-year-old Maidstone man has been sentenced to eight months in prison for endangering the Kent and Essex Police helicopter while it was on a task in Maidstone last year.

On the evening of June 24 2010 the police helicopter was carrying out a search in the town centre when someone shining a laser pen in the direction of the aircraft distracted the pilot. The laser lit up the flight deck, dazzling the pilot and forcing him to remove a hand from the flight controls to shield his eyes. As he tried to maneuver the craft away from the light he was deliberately tracked.

The aircrew managed to direct local patrols to the origin of the light, where Jarome Tomlinson was arrested. He was later charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way that was likely to endanger an aircraft, contrary to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on April 15 2011.

Acting Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge of the Force Contact and Control Centre said: “This was a very dangerous thing to do and consequences could have been far more serious, but for the skills of the pilot. The crew were going about their daily job - protecting the public - when the light from the laser blinded the pilot. It is testament to his flying skills that he maintained control of the craft but it was an act that not only endangered the crew but also those below in Maidstone town centre.”

His Honour Judge Macdonald QC, passing sentence, said Tomlinson came from a good home with a good mother and had shown genuine remorse but that a suspended sentence wouldn't provide a deterrent to others.

Tomlinson will spend four months of his eight month sentence in prison.

From a Kent Police press release

UK: UPDATED - Slap on wrist for 2 men who prevented medical helicopter from landing

Two Chippenham men who admitted lasing a medical helicopter so it could not land to pick up a heart attack patient, were fined £278 each and were given a conditional discharge -- no punishment if no further offense is committed -- on March 12 2012.

Late in the evening of September 7 2011, 21-year-olds Alex Cox and Luke Fortune aimed a green laser at an air ambulance trying to land in Calne. The men disagreed about whether the laser could reach the helicopter. Cox thought it would; Fortune thought it would not. In court testimony, the men also disagreed about which one of them aimed at the helicopter.

The pilot tried three times to land but could not due to the laser interference. An ambulance was called to pick up the patient, a man in his 70’s suffering a heart attack. It took 25 minutes to reach the Great Western Hospital in Swindon by road; it would have been 10 minutes by air. According to the ambulance service, it was “unlikely” that the helicopter would have been able to reach the hospital in time to save the man.

Cox and Fortune pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. They told the court their actions were stupid and very dangerous, and that they were sorry.

A Daily Mail article about the case has a sidebar listing four “laser pen pests” who received sentences from four to eight months, in cases ranging over the April-November 2011 timeframe.

From the Daily Mail. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item about the incident, from September 2011, is here.

US: Man admits knowing laser would blind Phoenix police pilots

A Phoenix man who aimed a laser at a police helicopter on March 10 2012 said he knew that the laser would blind the pilots. The helicopter crew was able to direct ground officers to the man’s location. Mario Michel, 25, was arrested on two felony counts of endangerment and a city of Phoenix misdemeanor warrant.

Mario Michel laser
Mario Michel


From
MyFoxPhoenix, ABC15.com and AZfamily.com

Northern Ireland: Two separate laser incidents lead to three arrests

Two teenagers were charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft, after aiming a laser pen at a Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter at 8:45 pm on March 12 2012. The aircraft was over north Belfast at the time. The two 17-year-olds will appear in Belfast Youth Court in April.

Less than three hours later, a laser was aimed at an aircraft in Glenavy, County Antrim. A male was arrested.

From 2 separate BBC News reports
here and here

US: Kentucky teen, drinking, aims laser at police helicopter

A 19-year-old Kentucky man, Juan Luis Gomez, was arrested for shining a green laser pointer at a Lexington Police Department helicopter on March 9, 2012. The pilot and two officers in the helicopter were temporarily blinded. According to police, Gomez had been drinking before the incident. He was charged with wanton endangerment.

Juan Luis Gomez laser
Juan Luis Gomez

From Lex18.com

UK: Six months of treatment ordered for drunken Derbyshire man

A 23-year-old man was sentenced on March 5 2012 to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and was ordered to have six months of treatment for drinking problems, after pleading guilty to shining a green laser pen on a Derbyshire police helicopter in a January 2 2012 incident.

Ricky Kemp of Shirebrook caused a “minor irritation” to the pilot, the first time Kemp lased the helicopter. The pilot continued to an incident, but then was lased again by Kemp while returning to police headquarters. The pilot was able to identify Kemp’s location, and directed ground units who made an arrest.

Kemp pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people inside.

From This is Derbyshire

Australia: New Year's Eve laser draws no jail term for Taiwan tourist

On December 31 2011, a tourist from Taiwan aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter hovering over Bradfield Park in Sydney. The beam illuminated the aircraft four times, in bursts of 3-5 seconds each. The pilot was lased directly in the face. Yu-Wei Chang, 27, was arrested by ground units. He pleaded guilty in January.

At his sentencing on February 28 2012, Chang said, “I didn't do that deliberately, it was totally reckless behavior and I didn't realize the serious consequences at all.” He had previously used a laser pointer in his work in Taiwan as a tour guide. The judge agreed the act was not malicious but said it was “extremely dangerous” and Chang had to receive a prison sentence. The judge referred to four similar Australian court cases. She said three offenders were given jail terms and two received suspended sentences.

On a charge of threatening safety of an aircraft, Chang was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended on condition of paying AUD $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. On a charge of pointing a laser in public, Chang received four months prison; this was also suspended. He was also ordered to pay court costs; the amount was not specified in news articles.

Chang said he expects to leave Australia in April. He said he was grateful for the suspended sentence, thanking the judge and the Australian government.

From The Australian and the Daily Telegraph. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story is here.

UK: 2 Bedford teens sentenced in lasing of helicopter

Two Bedford-area teenagers were given a 12-month referral order for a November 12 2011 incident in which they aimed a green laser pen at a police helicopter “to see how far it would reach.” The pilot partially lost his vision during the incident, which caused the flight to break off from its patrol mission. Ground officers arrested a 13- and a 17-year-old.

The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.

From Bedfordshire On Sunday

UK: UPDATED - 3 Bristol teens in jail after shining laser on police helicopter

Three teenagers from the Hillfields area of Bristol were arrested February 14 2012 for shining laser light on a police helicopter. The charge was suspicion of endangering the helicopter occupants. One person was 18, two were 19. A court date was set for March 19.

The Chief Superintendent of Avon and Somerset Police said “Anyone who shines a laser at an aircraft performs a dangerous and reckless act. These people have no consideration for the safety of the aircraft or its crew. When a laser is directed at any aircraft it puts life at risk and in the case of the police helicopter hinder the apprehension of offenders and delay the investigation of crime. In 2010 there were 90 reported laser hits against aircraft and last year more than 100 incidents involving aircraft and vehicles. This is something we take seriously…. Those who use the pens … need to know that they face arrest and possible prosecution if they are caught.”

From the Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary and BBC News Bristol

UPDATE, March 19 2012: Charges against the three teenagers were dropped, due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Northern Ireland: Derry man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 20-year-old Derry man was arrested February 11 2012 for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter. The unnamed man was arrested for an offense under the Air Navigation Order, and also for a separate count of possession of a Class B substance, according to a police spokesperson.

From the
Derry Journal

New Zealand: Laser aimed at helicopter during training flight

A Helicopters Otago pilot was dazzled twice by a green laser on February 8 2012 as he flew a training flight over Mosgiel. The pilot and his instructor broke off the training session to try and locate the source. They could not determine the exact location. Although police were notified, ground units also could not find the perpetrator. The pilot said that shining the light in his eyes had potential to cause a crash.

From the
Otago Daily Times

UK: Four month sentence for teen who flashblinded a helicopter pilot

An 18-year-old pleaded guilty on January 12 2012 to willful obstruction of a police helicopter pilot in the execution of his duty, and of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. On February 10 2012 the teenager was sentenced to a four month detention and training order. This was reduced from six months due to the guilty plea.

On September 27 2011, a police helicopter was searching for suspects when a laser pen was aimed at it for about 10 minutes. The pilot was flashblinded and suspended the search while he recovered. The pilot was able to identify a suspect. Dean Riley, of Cator Cresent, New Addington in the London Borough of Croydon was arrested by ground officers. He initially said he was not involved. The top of the laser pen was found in his pocket.

Dean Riley laser
Four months for aiming a laser at a helicopter


During sentencing, Riley’s lawyer described him as “extremely remorseful and regretful” and said Riley wanted to apologize. The judge said the pilot “could have crashed and caused untold damage and injury. The court takes offenses of this nature extremely seriously.”

From the Croydon Guardian

US: UPDATED - St. Louis area man indicted for Nov. 2011 illumination

Brian David Monday, 30, of St. Charles Missouri was indicted February 6 2012 for aiming a green laser at aircraft in November 2011. Monday was charged with one count of interfering with an airplane and a helicopter. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Monday is president and CEO of Monday Restaurants LLC, according to STLtoday.

From CBS St. Louis and STLtoday. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.

New Zealand: UPDATED - Teen targeted three airliners and a police helicopter

Three commercial aircraft were illuminated by a green laser beam while on final approach to Auckland International Airport on January 26 2012. The police helicopter Eagle was sent to investigate and was also lit by a laser. Police said that all four aircrews suffered temporary flash blindness.

18-year-old Pravikash Chandra was arrested and charged with four counts of endangering transport. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

A spokesperson for the Eagle said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a risk to the crew.”

From the
New Zealand Herald

UPDATE July 18 2012: Chandra pleaded guilty to all four charges of endangering transport. Sentencing was set for September 2012. A report on the laser’s characteristics, applications, place of purchase and use instructions will be prepared for the judge. From the New Zealand Herald and the Herald Sun.
.

New Zealand: UPDATED - 2 teens appear in court for May 2011 laser illuminations

Two New Zealanders who aimed a laser at the Eagle police helicopter in May 2011, will go to trial soon. On February 8 2012, Michael Joshua O’Hare-Knight , 20, and James John Spiers, 18, applied for a discharge without conviction, but this was denied by Auckland District Court judge Allison Sinclair. Their next court date was set for March 13 2012. Both were teenagers at the time of the laser illumination.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: The two were found guilty on November 10, 2012 according to the New Zealand Herald. It was not stated why the trial was moved from March 13 to November. Sentencing was set for February 2013.

From the
New Zealand Herald and MSN NZ. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.

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 - Virginia man pleads guilty to laser interference with police helicopter

A 28-year-old man pleaded guilty on January 25 2012 to a felony of “interfering with a person engaged in authorized operation of an aircraft” by aiming a green laser multiple times at a Virginia Beach police helicopter. During the 20-minute long November 1 2011 incident, one of the pilots was hit in the left eye. He saw black spots and was unable to see his instruments. Three times, the helicopter had to interrupt its mission of following a suspect, due to the laser attack. The attack continued even after the helicopter tracked the laser user and aimed its spotlight at him.

Christopher Bryan Willingham, of Virginia Beach, said at a press conference after his guilty plea that “It was reckless disregard of the safety. I was unaware of the potential hazards and actually what it looks like to pilots. It emits a lot of light.” He will be sentenced May 18. Willingham could receive 20 years in prison.

Pic 2012-05-22 at 2.17.57 PM
Christopher Bryan Willingham


At the press conference, the commander of nearby Naval Air Station Oceana said they are frustrated with laser incidents. There were 13 reports of lasers being used near the base in 2011, plus four reports between January 1 and 25, 2012.

From the Associated Press via the Washington Post, and a detailed press release from the FBI. The “Statement of Facts” in the case, as filed in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia, is here.

UPDATE May 19 2012: On May 18, Willingham was fined $5,000 and was sentenced in federal court to five years probation. From WSET, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, and PilotOnline.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.

UK: Teen arrested for Wolverhampton laser pen illumination

A teenager from Wolverhampton was arrested for aiming a laser pen onto a West Midlands Police helicopter that was over Wolverhampton on January 8 2012. The 18-year-old was charged with recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. He will appear in court on January 18.

From BBC News

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

South Africa: Three arrested in airport, Air Force base incidents

Three persons were arrested around January 5-6 2012, for aiming green laser beams at helicopters using Bloemfontein Airport and the adjacent Air Force Base Bloemspruit. A 54-year-old man, his 14-year-old son, and a 22-year-old friend were charged with violating Section 133 of the Civil Aviation Act 13 of 2009. Specifically, “Section (j) (i) of the said Act states that any person who wilfully performs any act which jeopardises or may jeopardise the operation of an air carrier is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment not exceeding 30 years or to both such fine and imprisonment” said a spokesperson

The three will be arraigned in court on January 9.

There had been concern over local airspace due to a January 8 political event at Free State Stadium with over 100,000 persons in attendance. The laser incident appears to be unrelated to a temporary Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring general aviation and recreation pilots to file flight plans in advance.

From The New Age. According to a separate story in The New Age, this was only the second time that arrests have been made in South Africa for aiming lasers at aircraft. The first was in May 2010 during a World Cup event.
.

South Africa: Man arrested for aiming at helicopter during World Cup

A 35-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter in Durban, at a World Cup event. Yusuf Ebrahim was arrested June 26 2010. A pilot had complained a few days earlier of light from a beachfront fan park affecting his vision. When it happened again on June 26, Ebrahim was identified and arrested.

The case was first brought before a special World Cup court. However, the prosecutor decided it was not a World Cup case and referred it to the Durban Magistrate’s Court. Ebrahim was charged with “performing an act which jeopardizes or may jeopardize the safety of an aircraft.” A court appearance is scheduled for July.

From IOL News

Update, January 11 2012: An Internet search has not turned up any news stories about the outcome of Ebrahim’s case. A story in The New Age indicates that there have only been two South African laser incidents that resulted in arrests -- the Ebrahim case, and a January 2012 arrest of three persons.

US: Arizona teen arrested for lasing rescue helicopter

A 14-year-old was arrested for shining a laser four times on a Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was rescuing lost hikers.
The helicopter was hit on January 6 2012, after returning the hikers to their automobile. The crew identified the source and directed ground officers to a house in Surprise, a town located 20 miles northwest of Phoenix, where four juveniles were found with a laser pointer. Apparently they had also been aiming the laser at cars on a nearby road. After investigation, the 14-year-old was arrested on a felony charge of endangerment.

Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a statement that “this person could have seriously injured my employees and put more lives at risk.”

From AZcentral.com and AZfamily.com

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

.

US: Florida man arrested for New Year's Eve laser tracking

Jordan Johnston, 36, spent New Year 2012 in custody for tracking a helicopter with a green laser beam. The helicopter, shared by Gainesville (Florida) police and the local Sheriff’s office, was hit by the laser after only a few minutes in the air. The laser beam was traced back to a home where New Year’s Eve fireworks were being set off. Johnston told police he was trying to aim the laser through the fireworks smoke. However, a police spokesperson said the helicopter was “continually followed … through the flight path.”

Pic 2012-01-02 at 1.58.10 PM
It is about 1/2 mile from the helicopter’s location when it was hit (open red circle) to the home where Johnston was arrested (black square), in north Gainesville.


Johnston was arrested for a third-degree felony, misuse of a laser device.

From Gainesville.com

Australia: UPDATED - Laser pen aimed at police during New Year's Eve festivities

A “high-powered” laser pointer was aimed at a Sydney police helicopter during a New Years Eve 2011 celebration in Bradfield Park. The helicopter was targeted four times; no injuries were reported. Ground officers were directed to a person in the crowd who was arrested.

The 27-year-old native of Taiwan was charged with threatening the safety of aircraft and the possession of a laser pointer in a public space. He was interviewed through an interpreter and had to surrender his passport. A court date of January 24 was set.

From Mosman Daily and DailyTelegraph.com

UPDATE, January 23 2012 -- Yu-Wei Chang pleaded guilty to threatening the safety of an aircraft, and to possessing a laser pointer in a public place. Chang had previously used the pointer in his job in Taiwan, as a tour guide. His solicitor said Chang did not intend any harm. He did not know it was illegal to possess lasers in New South Wales or to aim at an aircraft. Chang did it due to “New Year’s Eve exuberance.” Chang will be sentenced on February 28. The judge said she needed to get more information about similar cases in Australia, and to consider options other than imprisonment. She did say “there will be some punishment.”

Yu-Wei Chang laser
Chang after the guilty plea


UPDATE 2, February 28 2012 - Chang was sentenced to three months in prison on one charge, and four months on another charge. Both prison terms were suspended on condition of paying AUS $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. Details are here.

From Mosman Daily, 9News and DailyTelegraph.com

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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UK: West Mercia police helicopter hit twice in one night

The Shropshire Star reports that the West Mercia police helicopter was targeted twice by laser pens, in separate incidents early in the morning of December 17 2011.

The first one occurred as the crew was investigating a burglary in Telford. Ground units arrested a man on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. He admitted aiming the laser at the helicopter and was “cautioned”. (It is not clear whether any subsequent action will be taken against the unnamed man.) The laser pen was seized.

The second incident happened as the helicopter was assisting with a traffic stop. It is not known if anyone was arrested for lasing the aircraft during this occurrence.

A Telford Police spokeswoman was quoted as saying “Police will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. It is extremely dangerous…. Anyone found participating in such behaviour will be arrested and dealt with.”

On their Twitter feed, the air crew said that persons on the ground don’t realize how easy it is to find them: “It’s just like the bat signal. We can see exactly where they are and they get arrested.”

From the
Shropshire Star, ShropshireLive.com and BBC News Shropshire

UK: Arrest for aiming laser at police helicopter in Sheffield

A South Yorkshire Police helicopter was “continually” targeted by a green laser beam, on December 24 2011. The pilot directed officers on the ground, who arrested an unnamed man.

The airborne officers had been assisting a search for vandals who damaged cars; the offenders were located by a police dog.

From the
Sheffield Telegraph

Israel: 15-year-old aims laser pointer at pilot

A 15-year-old illuminated a police helicopter in Bat Yam, a city south of Tel Aviv, on November 23 2009. The pilot tried to avoid the laser beam, but the boy kept aiming at the aircraft. When the pilot felt threatened, he called for ground assistance. A motorcycle officer found the boy in a playground, still attempting to hit the helicopter. The boy was detained. During questioning, he “claimed to have known that this was dangerous and expressed regret over the incident.”

Original Hebrew article from YNet; Google translation into English available here

US: Long Island man arrested after aiming laser at plane, then police helicopter

David Smith was arrested after first aiming a laser at an aircraft, and then aiming at the police helicopter searching for the laser source.

On December 5 2011, a small single-engine plane was preparing to land at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. The pilot reported seeing a light aimed towards him (some sources say it was red, others say it was green). FAA officials informed Suffolk County police. The Suffolk Police helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser. They easily traced the laser back to its source, Smith’s home in St. James, NY. Ground units then moved in to arrest the 21-year-old. It took about an hour from the time of the FAA call to Smith’s arrest.

David Smith laser
David Smith, arrested for lasing aircraft


On December 9, Smith was charged with “obstructing governmental administration in the second degree”. Additional charges may be filed by the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force and perhaps the FAA and other governmental agencies.

Click to read more...

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.
.
Click to read more...

UK: 21-year-old Hertfordshire man given "conditional discharge" after lasing helicopter

A 21-year-old from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire was found guilty November 29 2011 of endangering an aircraft. Charlie Baker had aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter on November 18 2011.

In St Albans Magistrates Court, he received a conditional discharge of 12 months. If Baker does not commit any other offense in that time period, his conviction will be stricken from the criminal record. Baker also paid court costs of £85, and forfeited his laser pen.

From the
Watford Observer and Wikipedia “Discharge” article, England and Wales section
.

Canada: B.C. man arrested 7 1/2 months after helicopter lasing incident

On April 15 2011, a laser was pointed at a Royal Canadian Mounted Police helicopter in Vancouver, B.C. There was no injury to the pilot or passenger, according to LangleyAdvance.

On December 1 2011, Alexander William Schiller of Langley, B.C. was arrested for the crime. The 30-year-old was charged under the Aeronautics Act with endangering an aircraft by interfering with a crew member, and by creating an airspace hazard. He also faces a criminal charge of mischief. Schiller’s court appearance is scheduled for September 2012.

It is unclear what caused the delay in arresting Schiller, or the delay in bringing him to trial.

Pic 2011-12-01 at 7.38.16 PM
The red “A” locates East 17th Ave. and St. Catherines Street, where Schiller is alleged to have aimed a laser pointer at an RCMP helicopter.


According to a CBC report, “only a handful” of Canadians have been prosecuted. A pilot spokesperson was quoted as saying “The justice system is sort of behind the times on this.”

From CBC News and LangleyAdvance
.

Australia: UPDATED - Video shows Sept. arrest of Hampton Park man given AUD $3500 fine

Video footage taken by a police helicopter helped track and convict Tam Thanh Nguyen, 21, of Cranbourne. On September 3 2011, Nguyen was at a party in Hampton Park. He pointed a green laser, which he had bought on vacation in Malaysia, at the helicopter which was 2 km away. The pilot turned on the video which recorded Nguyen’s second illumination:


The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.

On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.

Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)

From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.

UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
.

US: "Stupid" Florida man arrested after helicopter breaks off landing approach

Bradley Walker, 26, was arrested November 9 2011 after he aimed a green laser at a sheriff’s helicopter. The Citrus County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office deputies were on final approach to Inverness Airport when they were temporarily flashblinded. The pilot had to remove his night vision goggles and broke off the landing by banking to the left.

Bradley Walker laser
Bradley Raymond Walker

The laser continued to shine on the helicopter. The other deputy reported the laser location to ground units, who arrested Walker. According to the arrest report, when asked why he did it, Walker said he was “just being stupid” and apologized. He was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device.

From 10News and the CCSO arrest report
.

Scotland: Police fail to arrest man who lased RAF helicopter during search operation

Police failed to charge a man who aimed a green laser at an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter in Cowdenbeath, Scotland on November 4 2011. The Sea King was searching for a missing man when the cockpit was illuminated. The pilot reported the location and ground units were sent. Police found the perpetrator, but did not arrest him. The man claimed he had not been aiming at the helicopter but instead was playing with it in his garden.

Local officials were upset. A Fife councillor said “It’s disturbing. Some action should have been taken against the individual and I will be making enquiries…” The local member of Scottish Parliament said she found it “absolutely astounding” that the man was not charged with a serious offense.

From
Deadline News
.

US: Man arrested after laser "blacks out" pilot

Jorge Garcia of Lehigh Acres, Florida (near Fort Myers) was arrested November 15 2011 for aiming a laser at a Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Two pilots had been searching for suspects in a shooting, when a green laser was pointed at them. According to a news report, the pilots “had been wearing night vision goggles, when the first pilot sustained injury from the laser and ‘blacked out’. “ The laser continued to be aimed at the aircraft for two minutes, until ground units arrived. Garcia was arrested after officers questioned three people found at a residence. Garcia told deputies he thought the lasing was a joke.

Pic 2011-11-16 at 1.10.32 PM
Jorge Garcia, charged with one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, causing injury.


The pilot suffered an eye injury, according to police. He was taken to a hospital, treated, and released.

From WINK News and WZVN-HD
.

US: St. Louis area man arrested for aiming at plane, helicopter

A 30-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser at an airplane and a police helicopter on November 4 2011. The incident took place in St. Charles County, about 20 miles northwest of St. Louis. Police directed to the suspect’s house found him with a laser in his hand. The case was referred to the FBI.

From STLtoday.com and STLtoday.com incident reports

UPDATE February 9 2012: Brian David Monday was indicted on one felony count of interfering with an airplane and a helicopter. The LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.

UK: Teens given 4-month sentence in north Hull laser attack

Two teenagers were sentenced to four months in jail for a “stupid [and] extremely dangerous” lasing of a police helicopter over north Hull.

Benjamin Ireland laser
Benjamin Ireland; four months in jail

Benjamin Ireland and Ryan Whybrow, both 19 years old, looked stunned as the judge sent them to young offenders’ institutes.

The two were at a party and were drinking when they decided to point green laser pens at a police helicopter “for a laugh”. The pilot and crew were flashblinded by repeated and continued illumination. The pilot made an emergency landing. Ground units directed to the location arrested Ireland and Whybrow.

The two pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. At sentencing, the judge said he was sending “a very clear message … to anybody else who is minded to behave in this way.”

From
This Is Hull and East Riding

UK: 16-year-old girl from Worthing arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A 16-year-old girl from Worthing was arrested October 31 2011 for endangering an aircraft with a laser. The South East Air Support Unit police helicopter was searching for a missing person when they were illuminated by a laser beam. The pilot and spotter located the source and called ground units. The teen was arrested with the laser.

From the
Worthing Herald

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser charges dropped because of "good character"

A New Zealand man had charges of endangering transport dropped because of his “good character” and personal circumstances. James Paul Burton had been arrested for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter in December 2010. He was 19 at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.

From
Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.

US: Man charged in Detroit area helicopter incident; faces 20 years

Dennis Berthiaume was charged on October 26 2011 with aiming a green laser at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter pilot on August 25 2011. The pilot was momentarily startled and distracted by the first illumination, and was disoriented by a second strike in the eyes. An agent on the helicopter was also hit in the eyes, became disoriented and saw spots; subsequently seeking medical treatment.

The agent directed ground officers to Berthiaume’s home in Madison Heights, Michigan. He later told officers that he had used the laser three times, then hid it in a bedroom dresser after seeing the helicopter spotlight on his house.

Berthiaume faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

From the
Detroit News

UK: Teen would not aim his laser at cars due to crash hazard, but felt helicopters were different

A U.K. teenager who told court he did not aim his green laser pen at a car “because it would probably make it crash” was sentenced to five months for instead aiming at a helicopter. According to the prosecutor, 18-year-old Jordan Burnett “did not apply the same logic to the helicopter because it was too far away.”

The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.

Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.

From
Kent Online

UK: Merseyside man charged in laser pen attack (UPDATE: 4-month sentence)

21-year-old David Checkley of Newton-le-Willows, was charged with recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft by St Helens police. On October 22 2011, a police air support helicopter was lased at about 1200 feet. Cameras in the craft identified Checkley’s house. Ground units found a four-inch long black laser pen. Checkley will face the St Helens Magistrates’ Court in November.

From the St Helens Star

UPDATE November 23 2011: Checkley pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. He was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police. From the St. Helens Reporter

Canada: Man arrested for aiming at Calgary police helicopter

David Palvialok, 35, was arrested for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter on October 25 2011. Calgary police were responding to a disturbance when they saw the beam. They tracked the laser and arrested Palvialok. He was charged with obstructing a peace officer, mischief, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.

From 660 News and CBC News

US: Fort Worth teen given misdemeanor ticket for lasing air ambulance

A CareFlite medical helicopter was lased by a teenager as it took off from a hospital in Fort Worth to return to its base. The pilot was temporarily blinded but was able to hover over the area to direct officers to the laser beam’s location. A teenager was apprehended. He was given a Class C misdemeanor ticket.

From
MyFOXdfw.com

Canada: Family turns in child for aiming laser pointer at helicopter

A family in Severn Township, Ontario, admitted that they were responsible for an October 7 2011 incident when an Ontario Provincial Police helicopter was twice struck by a green laser beam. A crew member saw the beam in the sky and warned the pilot before the laser directly illuminated the cockpit. The pilot looked away and did not experience flash blindness.

The family came forward after police asked for the public’s assistance in finding the source of the beam. The family said they had just bought the laser pointer, and one of the younger children was pointing it into the sky. The said there was no intent to cause a problem and they now know better.

Because there was no criminal intent, no charges were brought.

From the Barrie Examiner. The paper also carried an earlier article describing the incident and how police were looking for the laser source.

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

Switzerland: CHF 7,700 fine for aiming laser at Montreaux helicopters

A 37-year-old Swiss man was fined a total of CHF 7,700 (USD $8,620) for an October 2010 illumination of two military helicopters flying near Montreaux. News reports said two crew members were injured by the laser; one went to a hospital for treatment. The injuries were not permanent.

Since the incident, “powerful” lasers have been outlawed in Switzerland, but pilots still report incidents. The Swiss emergency rescue team Rega says lasers have been pointed at their helicopters 16 times from January to October 2011.

From World Radio Switzerland. The original October 2010 story of the arrest and crew injuries is here.

UK: 13-year-old boy arrested in Slough

Police arrested a 13-year-old boy for aiming a laser pen at a Thames Valley Police helicopter flying over Slough on October 2 2011. Slough is a borough about 22 miles west of London, in Berkshire.

The teen was arrested on suspicion of endangering aircraft. He was released on bail until October 27.

From the
Maidenhead Advertiser and BBC 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

UK: "High powered" laser diverts police from 999 call

A police helicopter answering a 999 emergency call was diverted by a “high powered” green laser pointer as it flew near Coventry on September 28 2011. The helicopter was searching for intruders in a woman’s garden. A 16-year-old man and a 33-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of recklessly endangering an aircraft.

An air operations supervisor said “such acts defy belief.” He noted that police can easily locate laser offenders and ground units can arrive “very quickly.”

The Cambridge News said that in 2010, there were five incidents involving lasers being aimed at the Cambridgeshire police helicopter.

From the
Coventry Telegraph and the Cambridge News

Australia: Arrest for repeatedly aiming laser at police helicopter

On September 29 2011, a green laser pen was pointed five times in seven minutes at a police helicopter patrolling near North Rocks, a suburb about 26 km northwest of Sydney. The air crew identified the location and ground units arrested a 20-year-old in Glenwood, about 9 km from North Rocks.

The man was charged with possession or use of a prohibited weapon without permit, and an act threatening the safety of an aircraft with a person on board. He was granted bail.

From 9News, ABC Sydney and NSW Police Force

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: 14-year-old arrested for lasing, interrupting police search

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

UK: Chard man did not think laser would reach helicopter

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

UPDATE October 19 2011: Webster was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with a two-year supervision order. He avoided jail because he was the sole caregiver for his 16-year-old son.

The sentencing judge said “The message should go out that people tempted to target helicopters in this idiotic and dangerous way should expect a custodial sentence. It’s absurd that these completely pointless toys are used to distract and disable helicopters engaged in the task of serious public good. You’re very lucky that some serious accident didn’t happen as a result of your action. You’re not going to jail by only the thinnest skin of your teeth. I don’t see why your son – in a very difficult family situation – should have that done as a result of your stupidity.” From This Is The West Country.

New Zealand: "Future career is on the line" for 20-year-old who aimed at a police helicopter

A 20-year-old New Zealand man who pleaded guilty to “endangering transport” by lasing an aircraft is asking for leniency because a conviction will affect his employment and travel.

In December 2010, James Paul Burton aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police said Burton -- 19 at the time -- admitted the act and said he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. (The Auckland Now story did not say how the incident affected the pilot or the flight.)

On September 16 2011, Burton’s lawyer told the court the act was done stupidly without thinking, after drinking with friends. She asked that Burton be discharged without conviction due to his age and future career plans. In 2007, Burton had arrived in New Zealand with his mother and sister, and all three are applying for residency. A conviction would affect his residency and his ability to find work and travel overseas. In turn, those restrictions could impact his ability to complete his studies in marine biology.

New Zealand does have a seven-year “clean slate” law, but his lawyer argued that Burton needed to complete his studies, apply for residency and find work before 2018.

From
Auckland Now

UPDATE OCTOBER 27 2011: The judge agreed with Burton’s lawyer, that the consequences for Burton’s career and residency application outweighed the seriousness of his offense. The charges were dropped. More details are in an October 27 story in Auckland Now.

Northern Ireland: Laser aimed at east Belfast police helicpter

A laser pen was aimed at a helicopter of the Police Service of Northern Ireland on September 16 2011. No suspect has been arrested, but police have spoken to a 50-year-old man, and the investigation continues. A spokesperson said "If life is lost as a result of this behaviour, those involved could not only face charges of being in possession of a dangerous weapon but could also end up facing manslaughter charges.”

From BBC News

US: Long saga of Frank Newton Anderson appears over: probation and $4000 fine

The long saga of Frank Newton Anderson has ended with one year’s probation and a $4000 fine on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Anderson faced up to 20 years in prison for lasing an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on April 13 2010.

He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and had his judge resign in June 2011 because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge called Anderson “an idiot, not a criminal.” A new judge was assigned, and Anderson was sentenced in July 2011, according to an article appearing in the Orlando Sentinel on September 15 2011.

Anderson’s laser case was especially interesting since it paralleled the gunfire case of Jason Dennis McGuire. He was arrested March 21 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced April 26 2011 to 12 1/2 years in prison.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Laser aimed at Boise medical helicopter; police seek perpetrator

A LifeFlight medical helicopter with a patient inside was illuminated by green laser light as it flew over north Boise, Idaho on September 12 2011. Boise Police and the Transportation Safety Administration are asking anyone with information on the unknown perpetrator to come forward. The agencies noted that fines can reach up to $25,000, and there could be up to a 20-year sentence.

From the Idaho Statesman. A short video report is at KTVB.

Wales: Six month sentence for misuse of brand-new laser

A 21-year-old from Newport, Wales, was given a six-month sentence in a young offender’s institution for illuminating a police helicopter. Ross McDonnell-Jones had purchased a green laser pen on October 11 2010. The next day, he aimed it at the helicopter, which was at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The pilot “lost his night vision and had to tilt his head away from the light, causing him to lose sight of the instruments and putting the aircraft in momentary danger”, according to the prosecutor. The laser attack lasted about five minutes.

McDonnell-Jones admitted aiming the laser outside but said he did not see the helicopter. The pen was found hidden under a baby’s mattress in the man’s home.

From the
South Wales Argus

UK: Pilot dazzled, breaks off police work to arrest 45-year-old

A police helicopter broke off pursuit of suspects after the pilot was dazzled by a green laser pen, early in the morning on September 6 2011. The Western Counties Air Operations Unit was able to guide ground officers in Chard to the location. A 45-year-old man was arrested and charged with directing or shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle the pilot. The suspects involved in the original incident, a vehicle break-in, were arrested separately.

From
This Is The West Country

US: Man charged with aiming at vehicles and sheriff's helicopter

Christopher Marden, 20, admitted aiming a laser pointer at vehicles on an Interstate highway, then turning it on a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter on September 4 2011. The laser attacks lasted about 5-7 minutes, according to the man’s companions. The incident occurred in DeBary, Florida, roughly halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The helicopter had been assisting in a suspect search.

Christopher Marden laser
Christopher Marden

The Deltona man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, and could also be fined up to $11,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From the
Daytona Beach News-Journal and WFTV

Australia: Man aims at police helicopter, could be jailed for 2 years (UPDATED)

A 21-year-old Cranbourne man at a Hampton Park party aimed a laser at a police helicopter on September 3 2011. The incident was captured on infrared video, and the man was captured. He was charged with interference with an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The interference charge carries a maximum two year jail sentence. His court appearance has been set for November 24 2011.

A Victoria Police spokesman said Melbourne has the highest number of incidents involving laser light, and “these incidents are occurring far too frequently….”

From
The Age, Herald Sun and ABC News

UPDATE November 24 2011: Tam Nguyen pleaded guilty on November 24 2011. He was fined a total of AUD $3500. Details are in this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

UK: UPDATED - Laser pens prevent medical copter from landing

A medical helicopter was unable to land to pick up a patient, after laser pens were aimed at the aircraft. The patient was then put into a waiting ambulance for land transportation. He died enroute to the hospital. Officials said they do not believe the delay affected the outcome, but called it a “serious offense” and are looking for the persons involved.

Late on September 7 2011, paramedics and an ambulance responded to a call about an elderly man who had collapsed in Caine, Wiltshire. They found the man had gone into cardiac arrest, and they called for the assistance of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter. It landed at the site but then took off again to burn fuel in order to carry the patient. As it tried to land for a second time, a “group of yobs” flashed laser pens at the pilot. He broke off the landing. The patient was then taken by ambulance to Great Western Hospital in Swindon, 20 miles away by road. Upon arrival, the man was pronounced dead after midnight on September 8.

Police said “at this stage, we are satisfied that the helicopter not being able to land did not affect the outcome of this incident.” They are searching for the laser-wielding perpetrators and are beginning a criminal investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call (0845) 4087000.

From The Independent , Wiltshire Times and BBC News

UPDATE September 15 2011: A story in the Gazette and Herald has some additional details about the incident.

UPDATE 2 March 15 2012: The two persons involved, Alex Cox and Luke Fortune, pleaded guilty. They had to pay £278 each and were given a conditional discharge (no punishment provided that no further offense is committed). More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com news item here.

UK: Helicopter catches Southampton laser pen suspects

Three persons were arrested August 27 2011 after aiming lasers at a police helicopter searching for the source of an earlier laser illumination of a Flybe aircraft landing at Southampton Airport. Thermal imaging equipment was used to locate two youths, both 17, and a 20-year-old man. Three laser pens were recovered.

The three persons were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. They were held overnight. The teens were referred to the Youth Offending Team while the man received a caution.

From BBC News and the Daily Mail

US: Orlando teen suspected in multiple lasings of planes

After a rash of Orlando-area laser illuminations on commercial aircraft, a helicopter searching for suspects was illuminated six times by 17-year-old Stefano Fronte-Liporacci. The Venezuelan student was in possession of a green laser when he was arrested by ground units on August 28 2011. He was charged with knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony.

Pic 2011-08-30 at 5.40.44 PM
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.


Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com

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.
.

Austria: Teen "hooligans" arrested for lasing rescue helicopter

Teenaged “hooligans” were arrested after a medical rescue helicopter was lased in the Austrian town of Steyr on August 17 2011. The aircraft was illuminated when landing at a hospital to deliver a seriously injured patient; the pilot had green laser light in his eyes. The helicopter was also illuminated again when taking off. The pilots called the police while they circled overhead to identify the beam source.

Two teens were arrested, one 17 and one 19, for endangering air safety. They face up to 10 years in prison.

From The Voice of Russia and Austrian Wings

Canada: Winnipeg man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 30-year-old Winnipeg man used a green laser pointer to illuminate a police helicopter four times on August 20 2011. By using “technology on the chopper,” the crew were able to direct officers on the ground. The man was arrested about 10 minutes after the illuminations. He was charged with assault with a weapon and projection of a directed bright light source at an aircraft.

From the Toronto Sun, CJOB 68 and CBC News (which also has photos of the laser pointer and the man being arrested)

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...

UK: 15-year-old arrested for lasing Northumbria copter

A 15-year-old boy was arrested for “shining a light so as to distract a pilot”. He aimed a green laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter as it flew over South Shields at 2:00 am local time on August 12 2011.

From BBC News and the Sunday Sun

US: DOD confirms eye injury to copter passenger; perhaps from Russian vessel Kapitan Man?

On April 4 1997, an American naval officer onboard a Canadian military helicopter suffered eye pain and injuries that “would be expected from exposure to a low level laser, such as a laser range-finder”. The pain came after a patrol photographing merchant vessels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Seattle, including the Russian ship M/V Kapitan Man.

Coast Guard and Navy personnel boarded the vessel on April 7 but were unable to find any laser device, or evidence of a possible device. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly was then examined by military laser eye injury experts, who found “there was a high probability that the minor burns on the lieutenant's right retina were caused by multiple laser exposures such as might result from a single glimpse at a repetitive pulsed laser.”

1997-KapitanMan
The American naval officer took this photo in the Strait of Juan de Fuca showing a red light on the M/V Kapitan Man. The light led some to suspect a laser. However, subsequent inspection did not find a laser, and in the location of the red light were “two deep red running lights … that met the guidelines established for sidelights.”


The U.S. Defense Department concluded that “[a]vailable evidence does not indicate…what the source of such an exposure might have been. Specifically, there is no physical evidence tying the eye injury of the American officer to a laser located on the Russian merchant vessel.”

The Strait of Juan de Fuca laser incident was also discussed in the August 2004 medical journal Archives of Ophthalmology. The article “Assessment of Alleged Retinal Laser Injuries” describes “Case 5” and concludes that “…[n]o evidence of laser injury was found in the years after the incident by 17 other ophthalmologists, including 5 neuro-ophthalmalogists and 8 retina specialists. A trial was held 5 years after the incident in which the retina specialist who made the initial diagnosis steadfastly maintained all the photographer’s [naval officer’s] symptoms were due to retinal laser injury. A jury ruled against the photographer’s claim for damages against the ship’s owner.… The patient had real complaints, but they were caused by preexisting autoimmune problems rather than by laser injury.”

The full text of the DOD press release, and the “Case 5” study is below (click the “Read More…” link). Additional information above is from a 2011 Washington Times story.

Click to read more...

Wales: Three boys arrested after lasing helicopter

Three boys were arrested for aiming lasers at a police helicopter in Cardiff. The boys are 12, 13 and 14, were charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft. A police spokesperson said the incident “may be viewed as a harmless prank … [but] could have fatal consequences.”

From BBC News North East Wales

Ireland: Rescue helicopter distracted by laser

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was distracted by a green laser beam “throughout” a rescue operation in Bray on July 27 2011. Gardai are asking for anyone with knowledge of the perpetrator to contact them.

From
Bray People. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

US: Laser incident in St. Louis, one week after publicity push

A police department helicopter flying over St. Louis County was illuminated multiple times by a green laser beam August 3 2011. A news story states the “entire” cockpit was not illuminated, but a TV news report said the cockpit was “completely illuminated.” The person aiming at the helicopter has not be found as of August 6.

This incident comes just over one week after an FBI/police media effort in St. Louis to inform residents about laser/aircraft hazards.

From STLtoday.com and KSDK TV (which has a video report online)

Scotland: Laser causes "considerable distraction" during sea rescue

The crew of a Royal Navy rescue helicopter, helping in a sea rescue August 1 2011, suffered “considerable distraction” from a laser beam. The Sea King helicopter was on standby to help assist local police and coastguard personnel rescuing a woman in the water at Saltcoats, on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said the lasing was “extremely reckless and irresponsible behaviour…. Had we been in the middle of a rescue, this person’s actions could have jeopardized our ability to continue.”

Strathclyde Police were notified; as yet no suspect has been identified.

From BBC News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

Canada: Oshawa teen arrested after lasing copter. UPDATE: Five more teens charged

An 18-year-old was arrested after a “strong” green laser strike on a Durham Regional Police helicopter, on July 29 2011. An officer on the aircraft (not the pilot) experienced “vision problems” and was examined at a local hospital. Robert Roughly was arrested at his home on Dunrobin Court in Oshawa, 60 miles northwest of Toronto.

Pic 2011-08-11 at 6.11.46 AM
Roughly’s home is within a kilometer of Oshawa Airport


The teenager faces the following charges:

  • Project Bright Light Source at Aircraft (Canadian Aviation Act)
  • Interfere with Performance of Duties of any Crew Member (Aeronautics Act)
  • Lessen the Ability of any Crew Member to Perform Duties (Aeronautics Act)
  • Assault with a Weapon Causing Bodily Harm
  • Mischief Endangering Life
  • Common Nuisance
Each charge under the Aeronautics Act has a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison.

From
680 News and Oye! Times

UPDATE August 8 2011: Investigators announced the arrests of five more teens: Dale Branton, Alana Capesky, Andrew Capesky, Curtis Lee, and Aaron Mountjoy. Each person is 18 years old. The five teens were charged with the same counts as Roughly (see list above). According to the National Post, “Witness testimony and unspecified investigations led police to allege that the six accused took turns passing the laser around and aiming it at the helicopter.” From CityTV Toronto, Canoe.ca, DurhamRegion.com and the National Post

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...

UK: Birmingham-area man claims dog, not copter, was his target; judge disagrees

A judge rejected the claim that a Small Heath man was trying to attract his dog’s attention when he aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter flying over Birmingham. Joshua Bough, 28, had admitted endangering the safety of an aircraft in the March 28 2011 incident, but said it was not deliberate. Bough claimed his puppy had run off and “he used the laser pen to attract the dog’s attention because sometimes it would get lost and confused in the dark.”

Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.

From the Birmingham Mail

UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail

US: Pilots complain of pain; Philly man arrested

A Philadelphia police helicopter was lased multiple times during a routine patrol on July 27 2011. The pilot and co-pilot both complained of momentary pain and blurred vision, so police began to search for the perpetrator. They found Brian Lawhon, 23, with a green laser described as a black pen cylinder six inches long. The Hunting Park man was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, simple assault, causing or risking a catastrophe, and possessing an instrument of crime.

Brian Lawhon laser


From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly, 6ABC.com and the Philadelphia Inquirer

UK: North London teen gets 6 month jail sentence

19-year-old Islam Ali was handed a six month jail sentence after pleading guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft. On March 6 2011 the teen was using a green laser pen outdoors and “wanted to see how far it would go.” He aimed at a police helicopter pilot who was flying an armed response team to a shooting incident. One press account said the pilot was temporarily blinded while another said that at 1,500 feet “the strength of the beam was not sufficient to affect [the pilot’s] vision.”

According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.

From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times

UK: 6 months in jail for "dangerous idiot" laser pen offender

A 23-year-old Newcastle area man was sentenced on July 26 2011 to 6 months in jail for repeatedly aiming a laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter around 1 am on June 6. Richard Anthony Oliver was outside his house in South Shields, and admitted the offence. He had purchased the laser pen while on holiday in Turkey, according to his lawyer, and “he accepts that it was a stupid, silly thing to do.”


6 months for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter

The judge called Oliver a “dangerous idiot” for illuminating the helicopter “for a considerable amount of time.”

In addition to the 6-month laser pen sentence, Oliver received another 6 months in jail on an unrelated theft charge.

From the Shields Gazette, Chronicle Live and BBC News. See also the Shields Gazette June 21 2011 story about Oliver’s guilty plea, and LaserPointerSafety.com’s original news item about the June 6 incident.

UK: 21-year-old gets 6 month sentence for Northumbria lasing

Aiming a green laser pen at a Northumbria Police helicopter resulted in a 6-month jail sentence -- and a missed career in the RAF -- for Jonathan Quantrill, 21, of Plessey Gardens, North Shields. Quantrill repeatedly aimed a green laser at the helicopter on August 22 2010, after drinking two cans of beer. The pilot reported that his night vision was degraded. He was able to lead officers on the ground to Quantrill’s home, where the 21-year-old was found with the laser pen.

At sentencing, the judge noted that although Quantrill was “a perfectly decent young man ... showing off your newly purchased laser pen to friends”, it was important to set an example: “Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison.”

From
Chronicle Live

UK: 3 month sentence for Newcastle teen

On July 22 2011, 18-year-old David Taylor of Newcastle began a three month sentence in a young offender’s institute, for aiming a green laser pen multiple times at a Northumbria Police helicopter. The pilot was forced to change course during the March 12 2011 incident. Taylor was later convicted of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

A police spokesperson said “I hope this sentence sends out the message to others that this sort of behaviour is not a game or a prank, it’s extremely serious .... they are committing a criminal offence.”

From
Chronicle Live and BBC News

UK: Teens aim laser at helicopter; disrupt river rescue

A Cambridgeshire police helicopter was targeted by a laser beam as it assisted firefighters rescuing a woman from a river. The pilot reported that the light “could have temporarily blinded him.”

Police located and spoke with three teens: a boy (15) and two girls (14 and 16). So far, no charges have been filed in the July 22 2011 incident. An investigation is ongoing.

From
Cambridge News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

UPDATE October 3 2011: The Cambridge News reports that the boy has been “reprimanded” and has been “dealt with by the police.” The reprimand was for a first offense. If there is a second offense, a final warning would be issued. On the third offense, the person would be charged and sent to court. From the Cambridge News.

US: St. Louis area publicity warns against pointing at aircraft

The case of a man arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter, was the subject of an FBI press conference for St. Louis-area media on July 26 2011. 26-year-old Justin E. Stouder of O’Fallon, Missouri, described how he aimed a green laser at a police helicopter on April 27 2010. One of the pilots said the illumination was similar to a camera flash. Stouder kept hitting the helicopter. Police converged on his home and he was arrested, spending the night in jail. Although Stouder was charged with “obstructing government operations” on May 14 2010, he successfully completed a one-year pretrial diversion program and thus has no additional penalty and no criminal record. (KSDK did note that Stouder “lost two career opportunities while his case was pending.”)


This screenshot shows Stouder at the FBI press conference where he apologized to the pilots. The full video is at KSDK.com

The conference was held to bring attention to the potential dangers of lasing aircraft. The agent in charge and the U.S. assistant attorney both stressed that the next person to be charged may face much stronger penalties than Stouder did.

From
stltoday.com. A video interview with the FBI agent-in-charge is available at Fox 2 Now.

Canada: $5000 fine for aiming at three aircraft

On July 26 2011, a 39-year-old Calgary man was fined CDN $5000 for aiming a “Class 3” green laser pointer at a small plane, a small jet and a traffic helicopter. Chris Saulnier pleaded guilty to the January 5 2011 illuminations. He was identified via video taken from the helicopter and turned over to the police.

His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”

From the
Calgary Herald

UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.

US: Helicopter pilot describes laser effects

The pilot of a medical helicopter described the effects of a July 16 2011 laser illumination. Roger Catlin said he closed one eye and hoped the exposed eye would not be damaged. He said the two or three flashes in about 30 seconds were “pretty distracting” due to worries about being able to fly.

No one has yet been caught in the incident, which took place over Terrell, Texas which is about 30 miles east of Dallas.

From NBCDFW.com

US: UPDATED - Student faces three legal actions after lasing medical helicopter from tower

University of Pittsburgh student James Gabriel Parisi is in trouble with the university, local police and the Federal Aviation Administration after he admitted aiming a laser towards medical helicopters.

Paresi, 20, faces university judicial board hearings with penalties that could include expulsion. He was also charged by University of Pittsburgh police with two felony counts of “causing or risking a catastrophe.” Finally, an FAA spokesperson said they will pursue civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.

On July 17 2011, at midnight and again at 3 am, medical evacuation helicopters reported seeing green beams coming from the University’s “Cathedral of Learning” skyscraper. Police confronted a group of students leaving the building after the second laser incident. Parisi, 20, spoke privately to an officer and said that he was the one who had been using a laser pointer.

Parisi was also found to have a fake Virginia driver’s license. He was additionally charged by the police with carrying a false identification card.


The 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere. Photo by Flickr user bombnomnom (Anthony Velázquez) under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.


From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

UPDATED February 28 2012: Parisi is awaiting trial on two state felony counts of “risking a catastrophe”. He could be fined up to $15,000 and receive up to seven years in prison on each charge. In addition, he faces $11,000 in fines from the FAA on each count. His attorney was quoted as saying “My client is a good kid. He just made a mistake. He obviously regrets anything that happened that night.” From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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: Tucson man arrested; video shows laser illumination

20-year-old Alama Nicholson Jeffs was charged with two counts of endangerment for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter in Tucson, on July 13 2011. The light disoriented the crew, but no injuries were reported.

Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.


The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.

The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:


Click to see the full video

From the Green Valley News

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: 12-year-old Tulsa boy wanted to say "hello" with laser to pilot

A 12-year-old boy aimed a green laser at a Tulsa, OK police helicopter “to say hello to the pilot”, according to a police spokesperson. The incident happened around midnight July 10 2011. Police on the ground, alerted by the pilot, found the boy in the parking lot of the Tulsa Mosque.

The incident will be reported to the FAA laser database. There is no word of any additional charges that might be brought against the boy.

From
Newson6.com

US: 4 people arrested in Louisville KY incident

Four people were arrested after pilots in a Louisville Metro Police helicopter were temporarily blinded by green laser light while in flight on July 7 2011. One report said the light came from a car driving on Interstate 64. Another report, from WHAS11, said the pilot was forced to land due to the laser attack.

The four suspects, all in their 20’s, fled across the state border, pursued by police. Joy McElwain, Steven Springer and Brian C. Enlow were arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They have been charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing police. Jason A. Hill was arrested separately; charges in the laser incident will be brought against him shortly.

In addition to the state charges, authorities are considering also bringing federal charges.

From
WLKY.com, the Courier-Journal.com, and WHAS11 News

US: Phoenix man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

24-year-old Conrad Rzewuski was charged with two counts of felony endangerment for aiming a green laser at a Phoenix, AZ police helicopter on July 6 2011. There was no immediate report of direct pilot illumination.

In June, Phoenix’s police chief said incidents will be dealt with severely: “We’ll charge them with endangerment, aggravated assault, and interfering with a flight crew.”

Conrad Rzewuski laser
Conrad Rzewuski

From AZfamily.com and Phoenix New Times

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.

Ireland: Man found innocent of "recklessly" illuminating garda helicopter

A jury has found a Tallaght man not guilty of endangerment in a September 12 2009 incident where a garda (police) helicopter pilot was dazzled with a laser pen. During the incident, the helicopter pilot took his hands off the controls in order to block out the green laser beams, which tracked the helicopter. In addition, a fellow crew member said she suffered pain in her eyes and temporary vision loss.

When arrested, Anthony Gaffney, 25, told gardai that he did not realize the laser hazard: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.

He was charged with “intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another”. During the two-day trial, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Patricia Ryan instructed the jury that the State’s case was not that Gaffney acted intentionally, but that he acted recklessly. She then read the legal definition: “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.

From BreakingNews.ie (before the verdict), and from Herald.ie and RTÉ (after the verdict)

Sweden: "Aviation sabotage" conviction for 21-year-old

A 21-year-old was convicted of “aviation sabotage” for repeatedly aiming a laser at a police helicopter in February 2010. According to a news report, the pilot was wearing “protective sunglasses” which helped avoid “what could have been a serious accident” as the helicopter flew over Gothenburg, Sweden.

The 21-year-old was convicted under the Radiation Protection Act. He received a suspended sentence with community service. A more severe sentence of 90 days was not imposed because the man had no previous criminal record.

From
The Local

Russia: Some Rostov-on-Don laser attacks due to insurgents? (UPDATE: Maybe not...)

In five June incidents, pilots were temporarily blinded in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Incidents occurred on approach to the Rostov-on-Don airport on June 3, June 7 and twice within an hour on June 23. In addition, the pilot of a police helicopter was blinded in mid-June. German news agency DPA reported that “insurgents in the Caucasus region were responsible” for these laser attacks.Click to read more...

US: Judge withdraws from Florida case because felony charge is too harsh for "an idiot, not a criminal"

A federal judge refused to sentence an Orlando man who pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to interfering with the operation of an aircraft. U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp said that Frank Newton Anderson was “an idiot, not a criminal” when he aimed a laser pointer at a sheriff’s helicopter on April 13 2010.

Sharp withdrew from the case because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge felt that this was a more appropriate charge and would deter any future actions. Sharp also pointed out that a felony conviction would mean that Anderson could never work in his field. (He previously owned a security company which closed when he lost his license.) The case was reassigned to a new judge.

From
NewsChief.com (The Anderson news starts on page 2 of the 3-page article.)

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

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: 18 months in Philadelphia helicopter incident

A 22-year-old Philadelphia man will be spending the next year and a half in prison, for an incident where he aimed a green laser at a city police helicopter. The pilot was temporarily blinded, felt a sudden intense pain in his eye, and “lost control”; his co-pilot took over.

According to press reports, it is unclear if the man, Lenny Tavarez, knew that the laser could cause a crash. Tavarez was 19, and a recent high school graduate with no criminal record, when the October 2008 incident occurred. He was sentenced May 13 2011.

From
Philly.com. A report of the original 2008 incident is at ABC 6.

US: Chicago Police helicopter incident ends with 3 arrests

Three men in their twenties were arrested June 18 2011, after a Chicago Police helicopter flying over the city’s North Side was illuminated by a laser beam. The aircrew directed police on the ground to a rooftop. One man threw a green laser pointer to the ground; it was later recovered.

Arrested were Alvin Kang, 25; Jeremy A. Smith, 24; and Mark P. Lawrence, 25. Each man was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and aiming a laser pointer at an officer.

From
UPI, Chicago Sun-Times and Examiner.com

US: Ocean City NJ purchase used almost immediately against Coast Guard helicopter

At around 9 pm on June 7 2011, Eric J. Bouda purchased a green laser pointer for $30 from an Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk store. He then pointed it at various targets -- including a Coast Guard helicopter two miles offshore that was on a training exercise with a tow boat. The boat crew notified local police, who found the 21-year-old still aiming the laser into the air. Bouda was arrested and charged with violating a state law prohibiting interference with transportation vehicles.

A spokesperson said that under Coast Guard rules, an illuminated aircraft must abort the mission. Crew members are taken off flight duty for at least one day, and must be examined by a doctor before flying again. “This temporary loss of crew has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.”

Due to previous incidents in Ocean City, the police and a local merchants association had asked members voluntarily to not sell laser pointers. But the president of the association noted that full compliance would not be possible unless there was an official ban or regulation.

From the Press of Atlantic City, Cape May County Herald, and Ocean City Patch.

UPDATE, June 21 2011: Bouda pleaded guilty in municipal court for interference with transportation. He was fined $1000 and must perform 15 days of community service. If he successfully completes the community service, the fine could be reduced to $500. In addition, he faces civil penalties from the FAA. (It is unclear from the news story whether or not FAA has actually begin proceedings against Bouda.) From Shore News Today.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

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.

UK: Helicopter hit twice in four days

A Northumbria Police helicopter in the Newcastle area was lased two times within four days. The most recent was June 6 2011, when 23-year-old Richard Anthony Oliver aimed a laser pen at the aircraft as it was flying over South Shields. Oliver was charged with directing a light at an aircraft to distract a pilot. [UPDATE July 26 2011: Oliver was given a 6 month sentence for the laser offence. Details are here.]

Earlier, on June 2, two 14-year-old boys lased the aircraft, which had been searching for criminal suspects near West Denton. The on-board observer said “... a green light filled the cockpit. For a few seconds I couldn’t see anything, all I could see was a green light. My sight was obliterated and I was dazzled.”

The pilot was forced to break off their search in order to find the laser perpetrators. They landed at a nearby airfield. The two teens were arrested and may charged with recklessly acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft.

From the Evening Chronicle

UK: Dover-area sea search called off due to laser pen attack

On June 6 2011, an RAF Sea King helicopter looking for a person in distress in the ocean was forced to call off the search due to being illuminated by a laser pen. Police are trying to find the laser perpetrator.


Site of the search: Copt Point between Folkestone and Dover.
Photo by
Chris Whippet, licensed under CC-by-SA 2.0.

Despite extensive searching by other means, rescuers did not locate the person who was reported to be in distress.

From
Kent Online. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

UK: Teen charged in 30-minute attack

An unnamed 17-year-old aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter for 30 minutes. He was arrested and charged with shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

The incident happened May 18 2011 in the skies over the West Midlands area near Birmingham; the boy is from Warley (Birmingham Mail) or Sandwell (BBC). According to police, the pilot “used his skills to position the aircraft away from the beams during the ground attack.”

From the
Birmingham Mail and the BBC

US: UPDATED - 5 years probation for Florida man

Mark Clay Hazlitt, 59, of Lakeland Florida was sentenced on June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.


Five years probation

The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.

According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.

LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.

From
NewsChief.com and The Ledger

US: Jurors find spotlight misuser guilty on one charge, not guilty on another

Jurors deliberated for a day in a case where a man aimed a spotlight at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 22 2010. The pilots, who were wearing night-vision goggles, were temporarily blinded by the spotlight. The co-pilot had to remove his goggles and direct the pilot, who was not able to remove his goggles while still piloting the aircraft.

On April 28 2011 the jury found Wayne P. Groen, 42, guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft. The jury found him not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. Sentencing was set for August 4 2011.

Groen lives near Lynden, Washington about 1/2 mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. According to the Seattle Times, Groen said he aimed the spotlight at the Border Protection helicopter because he was “curious” about their activities, bothered by the noise, and “wanted to alert the pilots as to how close they were to his home.”


Groen lives on H Street Road, which parallels the U.S.-Canada border

The Bellingham Herald reports that some of Groen’s neighbors have been annoyed by Border Protection activities, such as frequent low-level helicopter flights and vehicles traveling through their yards and fields. They “have been tempted” to spotlight helicopters, and felt that threat of a long prison term (up to 40 years) for Groen was excessive. One man quoted by the paper said he was in an old barn at night when a helicopter hovered overhead and the metal roof began to rattle and shake: “Had I had a good flashlight I would have shined it up at that black object to see what it was.”

From the Seattle Times and the Bellingham Herald. An account of the opening day of the trial, entitled “Light v. helicopter -- who felt threatened most?” can be read after registering at the Lynden Tribune; a cached version is available at Google.

UPDATE August 4 2011: Wayne Groen was sentenced to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision, and a $5,000 fine for incapacitating an individual during the authorized operation of an aircraft. Groen could have received up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 months; the defense wanted no prison time, one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. From The News Tribune

US: FAA to impose civil penalties

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 1 2011 that they will impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 on any person who aims laser beams at aircraft.

Many more details about this new policy are at LaserPointerSafety.com’s main article, which is here.

New Zealand: 17-year-old charged

The grandson of a prominent New Zealander was arrested after shining a green laser onto a police helicopter on March 25 2011. 17-year-old Joseph Mark James Corban was charged with reckless disregard for the safety of a police helicopter, which can be punished with up to 14 years in prison. The teenager’s grandfather is the late Joe Corban, MBE, a key figure in developing New Zealand winemaking.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said “people didn’t realize what a hazard lasers can be to aircraft.”

From the New Zealand Herald

New Zealand: 2 teens charged after illuminating police helicopter

19-year-old Joshua O’Hare-Knight and 17-year-old James Spiers were arrested on charges of endangering transport, after repeatedly shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter on May 7 2011. The two face up to 14 years in prison.

A police spokesperson did not want to comment about the incident because “he did not want to draw attention to it and risk copycat crimes.”

From the New Zealand Herald

UPDATE May 31 2011: Added the name of the second teenager, as reported by the Otago Daily Times

UPDATE 2 February 8 2012: The two persons appeared in court; a LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here
.

Australia: Arrest for aiming at TV station helicopter

A 35-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at Channel 9’s helicopter on May 20 2011. He was charged with endangering the safe use of a vehicle by directing a beam of light from a laser. According to news reports, the pilot said he was temporarily blinded as he flew over Brisbane: “It’s like staring into the headlights of [a] car ... for a few minutes you lose your vision reference.”

From the Courier Mail and ABC News

UPDATE, June 29 2011: The man, Morgan Daniel Raine, was fined AUS $1000 (USD $1078) on the endangerment charge, plus $300 for possession of ecstasy which was found during a search of his apartment for the laser pointer. Raine said the lasing was stupid and he meant no harm. From the Courier Mail


Fined AUS $1000 for aiming a laser up to five times at a TV helicopter

US: "Not the brightest guy" arrested in Fort Myers FL

A Fort Myers (Florida) man described by neighbors as “not the brightest guy” was arrested May 11 2011 for illuminating a Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter “several times” with a laser beam.

According to one news account, “the pilots’ night vision goggles went white and temporarily blinded them .... the deputies suffered irritation to their eyes.” According to another story, a deputy was hit in the eye with the laser beam. (It is not clear from the various news sources whether one or both deputies were wearing night vision goggles, and whether these were removed at some point during the event.)

Ground units were called to the location. A neighbor who saw the helicopter illuminating a house, and who saw multiple sheriff’s office cars speeding towards the house, looked outside and saw a green light: “I seen the laser flying around and we didn’t know what it was.” Officers found 29-year-old Michael Wayne Smith outside the house, “pointing an LED flashlight throughout the yard.” He was arrested and later charged with Public Order Crimes -- Pointing a Laser Light at a Pilot.


Michael Wayne Smith (Photo from Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

From WINK News, the Marco Eagle and ABC-7.com

US: 13-year-old charged in laser pointer incident

A 13-year-old was charged with reckless endangerment and “laser pointer misuse” after a Maryland State Police helicopter was tracked on April 17 2011, in eastern Baltimore County. Both pilots were temporarily blinded by the green beam. They were able to recover their night vision and train their spotlight on a home that the boy ran into. Ground units recovered a laser pointer from the home.

A police spokesperson called the event a “dangerous and irresponsible act... I urge parents whose children have laser pointers to remind them that engaging in this dangerous activity could lead to criminal charges.”

From the
Essex-Middle River Patch and Southern Maryland Online

US: Over two years in prison, $10,000 fine for lasering police helicopter

James Gautieri, 53, was sentenced on April 13 2011 to 33 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine for the April 30 2008 illumination of a police helicopter in Philadelphia. The charge was “interference with an aircraft.” The chopper pilot testified that he was temporarily blinded and the aircraft went into a nosedive. He said he would have crashed if his co-pilot had not taken over the controls.

The judge called Gautieri a “liar” for claiming that he was using the laser to follow stars.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said “Let the sentencing today send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said “As a direct result of his reckless and irresponsible behavior, the defendant will now have several years to think about how he endangered public safety by shining a laser into a helicopter pilot's eyes.”

From
NBC Philadelphia, CBS Philly and an FBI press release

US: Phoenix man arrested; cousin told him too late it was illegal

A Phoenix, Arizona man was arrested April 8 2011 after illuminating a police helicopter with a green laser pointer. The pilot’s vision was obstructed for “two to three seconds” but no other adverse effect was reported.

The man, 26-year-old Corey Blake Hubley, was playing with his cousin’s laser pointer by aiming it into the sky. When he realized he had pointed it at a helicopter, he turned off the pointer, according to Hubley’s account. His cousin then told him that pointing at aircraft was illegal. When police arrived, Hubley admitted he had aimed at the helicopter.

Hubley was charged with endangerment, which is a felony.

From
ABC15.com

US: 30 days in jail for Midway laser illumination

24-year-old Elvin Slater pleaded guilty on April 1 2011 to the misdemeanor of unlawful use of a weapon -- a laser pointer aimed at aircraft. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 18 months of probation, and one month in a “sheriff’s work alternative program”

The charge stemmed from a March 17 incident when he and Shania Smith, 22, aimed a laser at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing at Midway Airport, and then again at a police helicopter that was investigating the Southwest illumination. Both Slater and Smith were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Smith is awaiting trial on May 4.

From the
Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-AM

US: Army helicopter crew illuminated over Pa., perpetrator sought

Information is being sought in a laser strike that happened at 8:44 pm on Tuesday, March 22 2011. A crew member of an Army AH-64A Apache helicopter was illuminated “directly in the eyes” at an altitude of about 1500 feet while over the small borough of Myerstown, Pennsylvania (pop. 3,171). The beam came from near the intersection of Routes 622 and 645, according to state police.


The perpetrator could be charged with reckless endangerment. Anyone with information is asked to call the state police at 717-865-2194.

There was no word as to whether the crew member claimed an injury, or had a non-injurious light exposure.

From WHTM. Note that the online story stated Route “465” at the time we viewed it, but police confirmed this is a typo; the road is Route 645.

UK: Footage of Birmingham helicopter tracking suspect after being lasered

Birmingham police released a video showing two youths lasering a helicopter, then running and unsuccessfully attempting to flee.


Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera


The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter


The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser


After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running


The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined
£100 in youth court.



Click to play the YouTube video

For a transcript of the video narration, click the “Read More...” link below.

Related stories in the Birmingham Mail March 11 2009 and April 6 2009, and the Sunday Mercury May 7 2009

Click to read more...

Canada: Man gets lower fine, in part because pilot did not lose control