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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.

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

Ukraine: Video shows Russian soldier aiming laser at recon plane

A video released by Ukraine's press service shows a Russian soldier aiming a green laser at a Ukranian DA42 light surveillance plane. This was apparently done either for determining range, or to dazzle the pilots or the surveillance camera.

The propeller plane was patrolling the northern part of Crimea when it was fired upon during daylight hours.

Ukraine recon plane Russian soldier laser 300w
A still frame from the video, showing the soldier outside a tent



From The Aviationist

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

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

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

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


From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com

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

San Diego laser from helicopter

US: 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: 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.

Read More...

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.

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: 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: 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.

Russia: Laser beam shines on Moscow airplane

Moscow police are searching for the person who aimed a laser beam at an aircraft landing at Domodedovo Airport on July 25 2010. Three incidents also happened at the same airport in June, according to authorities.

In a related story, Russia Today has posted a video showing what it looks like to be in an aircraft during a laser illumination:


Frame showing point of maximum dazzle when a laser beam hits the aircraft’s cockpit window. Click to see the
YouTube video.

From UPI, and from Russia Today via YouTube

UPDATE July 28 2011: Bloomberg quotes news agency RIA Novosti as saying a suspect was caught on July 27. The 26-year-old told police “he couldn’t even imagine that his actions could cause a plane to crash.” The news agency says the suspect was 40 kilometers from the airport on Kosygin (Kosygina) Street in western Moscow.


The map shows the suspect’s location (A) in relation to Domodedovo Airport (B)

US: Pilot's video & research helps FBI find & convict Chicago-area man

A pilot’s videotaped research helped the FBI find a laser pointer in a door-to-door search, in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The pointer’s owner, Jason G. Heeringa was arrested in 2010. On July 12 2011 the 29-year-old pleaded guilty in a plea bargain arrangement to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery.


Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service

Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.

Read More...

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

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

Rincon was held on $25,000 bail. His lawyer argued, unsuccessfully, that Rincon did not present a danger to the community since he has no previous criminal record.


San Diego police released a video of the laser illumination.


From CBS8 and NBC San Diego. Both sources have video showing the illumination.

UPDATE, July 27 2011: Rincon’s trial was set for September 15, according to NBC San Diego.

UPDATE 2, September 15 2011: Rincon pleaded guilty to the felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. He will be sentenced on September 13 2012. If Rincon does not commit any new crimes during the one-year timespan, the charge will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor. That would reduce his maximum possible sentence from three years in prison (for a felony) to one year in county jail (for a misdemeanor). From Sign On San Diego.

US: 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

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

Read More...

US: Police search Phoenix neighborhood after multiple hits

A news helicopter, checking out a laser incident involving a traffic-reporting airplane, was itself illuminated multiple times.

The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“

Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.



The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)


From
3TV (azfamily.com)

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

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

A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”

The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.



NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.



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

Romania: Video of helicopter incident

A YouTube video taken from a helicopter in Bucharest includes a brief laser illumination. The frame grab below shows the view as the laser reaches maximum brightness.



Below is the YouTube video (click the play triangle to start the video). The laser perpetrator is located in the street intersection. The incident happens from about 5:00 to 5:04 in the video.

The illuminations are don’t appear to be as bright or disruptive as those in the UK helicopter footage here. However, no matter how low-powered the laser or how brief the illumination, lasers should NEVER be aimed at helicopters, aircraft or other vehicles.




Thanks to Andy Faulkner of Laser Shows S.R.L. in Bucharest for bringing this to our attention, and to Peter Broerse of DMXLASER in the Netherlands for the frame grab.

UK: Video of helicopter incident

A news report shows a helicopter-eye view of a laser incident. Here is a frame grab from the video, showing the laser when it is on the cockpit:



Click to play the full YouTube video:



Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com

Some might say that the laser in this incident looked “manageable”. But there are a number of issues:
  • The person might have bad aim. With care or a tripod, this could have been much worse.
  • The laser might be relatively low-powered, such as 5 mW or less. If a higher-power laser was used, obviously the light would be much brighter.
  • We are seeing what a camera sees. The human eye could be more bothered by the laser hits.
  • The pilots are obviously distracted, in two major ways. The light itself is distracting, plus they are concentrating on this incident (trying to find the perpetrator). They are taking time away from “normal” police work to have to deal with this situation.
  • If the police had been able to find the perpetrator, he or she would have been arrested. This would quickly turn a “prank” into a serious, expensive matter for the person. (Search this page for the categories Arrests and Fines and jail to see that this is a real possibility.)

As stated elsewhere in this website, levels of laser light which may seem reasonable to laser enthusiasts cause problems for pilots. The simplest solution is to NEVER aim a laser at an aircraft.

Thanks to “Nordhavn” from laserpointerforums.com for bringing this video to our attention