A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Lasers pointed at drivers at car "sideshows" in Oakland

Police helicopter footage taken in December 2017 shows spectators at an Oakland (Calif.) car “sideshow” aiming laser pointers at drivers. This is hazardous since the automotive stunts performed at sideshows include doughnuts (tight circles with spectators close by) and ghost riding (climbing out of the car while it is moving).

Laser sideshow Oakland 2
Screenshot from a California Highway Patrol video that shows laser pointers being aimed at drivers, at spectators, and at a police helicopter monitoring a sideshow.


A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer noted multiple hazards, from eye injury to blinding vehicle operators: “So, if a laser got in the eyes of a sideshow participant, it is going to cause temporary blindness, permanent eye damage. It could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle itself. If he loses control, it is going to hit multiple people at once and cause mass injuries…. The lasers could cause temporary blindness for the pilot, could cause the pilot to alter their course, and it could cause the helicopter to crash.”

During the same time period in December 2017, there was also a report of multiple laser strikes on airplanes landing at Oakland International Airport (story here).

From KRON TV and East Bay Times. See also this story about a man arrested at a January 2018 Oakland slideshow for aiming a laser at a CHP helicopter.

UK: Teen in Luton attacked by laser light; eyes injured

A teenager from Luton, about 30 miles northwest of London, was injured by two boys, between 12 and 14 years old, who aimed a laser pen into the teen’s eyes from a distance.

According to a news story, “the boy sustained damage to his eyes and required hospital treatment.” A police spokesperson called the injuries “serious.”

Police were asking for help in finding the perpetrators of the December 4 2017 incident

From Luton Today

Scotland: Laser pen aimed at lifeboat on training exercise

A lifeboat crew on a training exercise in the Cromarty Firth was illuminated by green laser light, possibly from a moving vehicle, on December 11 2017.

None of the seven crew members were reported to be injured or affected by the light.

According to a news story, “Last year the Port of Cromarty Firth also complained to police after laser pens were shone into the waters of the firth. One worker had to receive medical treatment when a pen was shone directly into his eyes.”

From the North Star News

Israel: Attacks on motorists include laser pointer aimed at driver

A “wave of Arab terror attacks” in Judea and Samaria included stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at vehicles, and a report of a driver having “a laser pointer being pointed at her face in an attempt to impair her ability to drive.”

The news account did not seem to indicate that the laser usage was more widespread or organized.

From Arutz Sheva Israel International News

US: Officer in car said to have burned cornea from "inadvertent" laser pointer incident

A police officer in College Place, Washington was driving when he was illuminated by a laser pointer. Officer Bill Kelly had a burning sensation in his left eye and went to St. Mary’s Hospital. He was “released with a small burn of his cornea.”

The incident happened on November 26 2017. A College Place resident later confessed to using the laser pointer. The 43-year-old woman said she “inadvertently” aimed the laser at the officer. Police said the laser was “Class III.”

The unnamed woman may be charged with unlawful discharge of a laser at a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty, a Class C felony which has a punishment of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

College Place Wa laser pointer class III
The laser pointer

College Place WA laser pointer label
Close-up of the laser pointer label


From MyColumbiaBasin.com.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Visible light travels through the clear cornea — it is not absorbed by corneal tissue. It is essentially impossible for a handheld laser’s visible light to be able to cause corneal damage to a moving target many yards away. While certain green lasers can also emit infrared light, it is extremely unlikely that the IR was strong enough to cause damage under the specified conditions. When corneal damage is seen after an unwanted laser pointer exposure, this is due to the person rubbing their eyes too vigorously. More information on evaluating laser injuries is here.

Greece: Protesters use laser against police

During protests in Greece, laser beams were aimed at police. The photo below is from a gallery of protest photos.

Greece protester laser beam police Nov 2017


The protests marked the 44th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship.

Reuters photo from Telesur

Australia: Laser aimed at motorists including police officer

From a November 13 2017 Mackay (Queensland) police crime listing:

Motorists impeded by green laser light, Mount Pleasant

Three motorists, including one police officer, were travelling on Mackay Bucasia Road (Mount Pleasant area) when their eye-sight has been impeded by the deliberate shining of a green laser light from a near-by residence situated on the eastern side of the roadway.

The incident involving the police officer occurred at approximately 9:26pm on November 11 as the officer was travelling in a marked police car, travelling in-bound towards Mackay. The officer’s eye-sight was impeded twice by the shining of the green laser light. Police had received two reports of a similar nature from other motorists in the same time frame.

Despite patrols conducted on foot and by vehicle the address where the green laser light was activated from was not identified at the time. Police are conducting further investigations. Any one who may have information linked to these incidents is encouraged to contact the Mackay police station on 0749 683 444 or you can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 any time of the day and provide information anonymously. The police reference number is QP1701988362.

Actions such as these have the ability to temporarily effect the eye-sight of the driver of a vehicle – which can potentially create life endangering circumstances
.


Scotland: Teen arrested for aiming laser pen at busses

A 14-year-old boy was charged with shining a laser pen at busses in Dundee, on November 3 2017.

A report will be sent to the Youth Justice Assessor.

The managing director of one of the busses involved said “…to shine a laser into the eyes of someone who is driving a bus is unbelievably reckless. The lives of our drivers, passengers and other road users are potentially put at risk during this sort of incident, as the person behind the wheel is temporarily blinded.”

From the Scottish Sun

UK: 12-year-old has permanent eye damage from reflected laser pointer beam

A 12-year-old boy from Market Harborough, Leicestershire, received permanent eye damage from the reflected beam of a green laser he aimed at a window. Carlo Chiriatti had purchased the laser while on an overseas vacation.

An optometrist who examined the boy said “It was clear after taking a close look at Carlo’s eyes that he had suffered some sort of damage. I could see there were slight burns to the surface of the eye [cornea] and the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, had been damaged.”

According to the optometrist, the boy is likely to need glasses when he is older due to the “irreversible” damage.

Carlo’s mother said “I had no idea laser pens could do so much damage to the eyes. If we had known, we’d never have let him buy one. The damage was slight when it was detected so Carlo hadn’t complained of any issues, but thank goodness it got picked up when it did.”

From the Leicester Mercury and the Express

Scotland: Teen left with impaired vision after classmate aims laser pen at her

A 13-year-old girl suffered a permanent eye injury after a classmate aimed a laser pointer at her at close range, while on a school bus headed to Fortrose Academy, about 6 miles northeast of Inverness.

On September 12 2017, a boy turned around and aimed the laser at the girl’s face. She covered her face but he deliberately aimed at her eyes. When she arrived at school, the girl told her teacher that her eye was sore and blurry. It remained that way throughout the day.

She went to an emergency center that night, and an ophthalmologist the next day. The prognosis was that there was no physical damage and her vision should improve.

About a week later, a local optician examined her and said there was damage to her peripheral vision on the left side, and it was likely to be permanent.

The girl’s father told The Press and Journal, “I was angry. I was shocked on Saturday, I was hoping it would get better. My daughter was upset. It has knocked her confidence. What I’m really bothered about is the availability of these pens. These laser pens are a danger and people should be aware. I’m intending to write to local MSPs and the MP about it. I don’t think any children should be able to buy them. You can buy them in supermarkets and on Amazon – I don’t think that’s right. I think the legislation has to be changed.”

A survey of UK ophthalmologists reported more than 150 incidents of eye injuries involving laser pointers since 2013, the vast majority of these involving children.

From an October 12 2017 article in The Press and Journal

UK: Laser scientist and baby victims of laser attack

A physicist who uses lasers in his research was targeted by a red laser, as he held his baby daughter in his arms, at his home. The attack did not seem to be specifically aiming for Dr. Ventislav Valev, but did drive home to him the need for better education and labeling for laser pointers.

The undated attack was discussed in an October 9 2017 press release from Dr. Valev’s institution, the University of Bath. The goal of the press release was to warn the public about laser pointers which may seem safe but are too powerful and/or emit infrared light in addition to visible light.

Dr. Valev and colleagues tested laser pointers at the university, and found the potentially unsafe conditions.

As part of the press release, Dr. Valev related a laser pointer attack that occurred in his home. He said his daughter was asleep at the time so no light entered her closed eyes. Dr. Valev said “… I got only momentarily dazed, but suddenly everything became red. I was thinking that perhaps I was experiencing a medical condition, but my wife saw someone shining a pointer at me from outside our home.”

Click the “read more” link to read the entire press release.     Click to read more...

US: Orlando man shot by police after brandishing laser pointer

An Orlando man bring served an arrest warrant aimed a laser pointer and threw a knife at police, who shot and killed him.

The October 6 2017 incident began when Roberto Callejas, 35, told his family he was waiting for the officers to arrive, and that he had a bomb. While it was later found that Callejas did not have any explosives, he did have two knives and a laser pointer.

When police arrived with a warrant for armed trespassing, Callejas put a knife to his throat. Police tased him. He fell to the ground, then came back up and aimed what police thought was a laser gun sight at them. Officers shot him. Callejas fell again, and again came back up; this time he tried to throw a knife at the police. Officers shot once more and killed him.

According to an Orlando Police spokesperson, Callejas had threatened police before. Police Chief John Mina said “To me it seems he wanted to die at the hands of police.”

Note: This comes on the heels of a similar September 2017 incident where a 31-year-old Bronx man refused to put down a knife and a toy gun with an integral laser pointer. The man was shot and killed after he aimed the toy gun/laser pointer at officers, according to the police account.

From the Orlando Sentinel

UK: Teen aims green laser into policeman's eye

A 16-year-old was charged with suspicion of assaulting a police officer, after allegedly shining a green laser into the policeman’s eye as he was driving.

The incident happened September 28 2017 in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.

From the Gazette

US: Calif. teacher loses credentials for, among other things, shining laser pointer in students' eyes

A special education teacher in the Ontario-Montclair (Calif.) School District had his teaching credentials revoked in December 2016, for abusing his students including an allegation that he shined a laser pointer in students’ eyes.

Carlos Cameron Duncan was said to have been aggressive to his students at Euclid Elementary School, to have verbally abused them, and to have used physical force, among other charges. He resigned March 8 2016. His credential revocation was reconsidered and sustained in April 2017.

There was no indication of any claim of injury from the laser pointer shining.

From a September 30 2017 article in the Daily Bulletin

US: Man fined $106 for possession and improper use of laser pointer

36-year-old Aubrey Elmore from Cave Springs, Arkansas “was fined $106 for possession and improper use of [a] laser pointer,” according to the Joplin, Missouri Municipal Court log.

Analysis from LaserPointerSafety.com: There is a Joplin city ordinance, dating from 1999, that makes it illegal to annoy, harass or injure a person or animal. It also is illegal for a person under 18 to possess a laser pointer. It is not known how it would be illegal for a 36-year-old to possess a laser pointer.

From the Joplin Globe

US: NYPD video shows man killed for aiming fake gun laser pointer at officers

On September 6 2016, New York City Police Department officers fatally shot a man who they say aimed an imitation gun with a laser pointer at them. Killed was 31-year-old college student Miguel Richards.

Police released four videos from officers’ body-worn cameras, showing how the incident progressed. A detailed look at the laser light seen in videos is below. First though, a summary of the incident.

The fatal incident


Police had been called by Richards’ landlord because Richards had not been seen for a few days. Confronted by two police officers in his Bronx apartment bedroom, Richards stood motionless and silent throughout most of the incident. He had a knife in one hand and the toy gun behind his back.

Miguel Richards toy gun laser pointer NYPD video frame 926

Body-worn video shows the scene.

Police asked him dozens of times to drop the knife and put his hands up. After about 10 minutes, they noticed the gun.

An officer told Richards “"Drop that gun, dude. Drop that gun. I don't want to shoot you if you've got a fake gun in your hand. You hear me? But I will shoot you if that's a real gun."

Two additional officers then arrived; one pulled out a stun gun. Richards appeared to raise his arm and aim the laser pointer towards the officers. The officer with the stun gun fired. After a few seconds, and a possible second laser “shot” from Richards, a second officer fired nine bullets, a third officer fired seven bullets, and the fourth officer did not fire.

Richards died at the scene.

Miguel Richards toy gun laser pointer floor

The imitation pistol with laser pointer lies at the scene; NYPD photo.

Click to read more...

UK: Ambulance driver temporarily blinded by green laser

The driver of a North West Ambulance Service vehicle was temporarily blinded by a green laser shone in her eye, as she was driving to help a patient who was having trouble breathing. The ambulance driver said “everything went black” and she had to pull to the side of the road.

She was treated at a hospital for “extreme burning pain.” She recovered with no lasting damage.

The laser attack happened in Carlisle, Cumbria around September 13 2017. It was not clear from news reports whether the ambulance driver was delayed in reaching the patient, or whether another ambulance was sent.

From BBC News

UK: "Gang" of pre-teens aiming laser at passing motorists

A group of eight to ten youths, aged around 10-12 years old, aimed a green laser pointer at motorists on August 2 2017 in Keresley, which is about five miles north of Coventry.

Passers-by saw the youths — described as a “gang” in a news report — and reported them to a passing member of the Bedworth Safer Neighborhood Team. An officer from the team said SNT is investigating the “potentially very dangerous” pranks. The officer also said “I would ask parents if these were their children to have a serious word with them.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 or the confidential Crimestoppers hotline, 0800 555 111.

From the Coventry Telegraph

US: California man arrested for aiming a laser pointer (on a gun?) at people

A 30-year-old man was arrested July 18 2017 for aiming a laser pointer “at people passing Potrero Circle and Lawler Ranch Parkway” in Suisun City, California. It was not clear from press reports if pedestrians or vehicles were being targeted.

A caller had reported to police that a man had “something attached to a laser that appeared to be a firearm.” Police arrested Jose M. Padilla as he was leaving the area in a van.

Padilla had been arrested July 10 2017 on a firearms charge. He was not to possess firearms or ammunition. When arrested on July 18, ammunition was found in the van.

He was charged with two misdemeanors: suspicion of violating a firearms emergency protective order, and suspicion of pointing a laser pointer with the intent to cause a person to fear harm.

From the Daily Republic and The Reporter

Israel: Palestinian girl playing with laser pointer beaten by Israeli forces

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli soldiers physically assaulted a 17-year-old Palestinian girl in Hebron on the evening of June 28 2017 while she was playing with a laser pointer with friends. She was taken to the hospital after suffering from bruises across her body.

News reports did not say how the laser pointer was linked to the beating. (For example, whether the girl was aiming it at the soldiers.)

From Wafa and the Ma’an News Agency

US: Multilple laser pointer attacks on Chesapeake Bay ships

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that multiple ships in the Chesapeake Bay had a laser aimed at them in April and early May 2017. The laser light came from an area between Drum Point and Cove Point in St. Marys County, Maryland:

Laser Chesapeake Bay

The following is from a Coast Guard press release dated May 4 2017:

The Coast Guard is investigating multiple laser strikes during the past month aimed at commercial vessels transiting the Chesapeake Bay and warns the public of this dangerous act.

Four incidences occurred early Wednesday morning between midnight and 3 a.m., involving the motor vessels Salome, Bulk Spain, and AM Annaba. Additionally, a pilot vessel was lased as it was on its way back to the pilot launch.

Three other incidents occurred: Monday around 2 a.m., involving the motor vessel Hoegh Osaka; Sunday at 4 a.m., and involved the cruise ship Carnival Pride and another April 7 at approximately 1 a.m., involving the motor vessel Maersk Kolkata.

During all incidents, the laser light was described as steady, powerful and somewhat painful to the eyes. The reporting source believes the laser originated in the area between Drum Point and Cove Point, and lasted for approximately 15 minutes.

“Laser lights, and other bright lights can be a hazard to navigation,” said Lt. Trish Elliston, Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region. “The most likely scenario is the laser would blind or distract a pilot which would prevent the pilot from seeing a smaller vessel. This could cause a collision or other serious incident in the shipping channel.”

The Laser Safety Act, makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing, or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft. The penalty is a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

The Coast Guard is working with state and local law enforcement along with Chesapeake Bay Pilots to investigate the incidents. Anyone with information leading to the whereabouts of the individual, or individuals, involved are asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region Command Center at 410-576-2525 or via email at cgis-baltimore@uscg.mil.

US: Illinois man charged with aiming laser pointer at officer

Clinton N. Sanders, 33, of Gillespie, Illinois (about 38 miles NE of Saint Louis, Missouri) has been charged with aggravated battery and disorderly conduct with a laser pointer in connection with an April 28 2017 incident in which he allegedly picked an officer up off the ground in a bear hug and aimed an operating laser pointer at the officer.

From “Court News” in the Macoupin (IL) County Enquirer-Democrat

UK: Man assaulted with laser pen, falls, requires surgery

A man in his 40s, who was walking his dog in Weymouth, Dorset, was assaulted by another man who aimed a green laser pen into the dog’s eyes. This “caused the dog to bolt forward and aggravated an existing back injury the victim had received.” The victim fell down, and the attacker then aimed the laser into the man’s eyes.

Police said that the victim “is likely to have to undergo surgery to repair damage caused to his back following this incident.”

The attack happened at about 9:20 pm on April 23 2017. Police did not release details until May 4.

From the Dorset Echo

US: Apple employees' vision affected by prototype laser device

An Apple Inc. employee reported “discomfort” after a laser was flashed in her eye several times on February 21 2017. Another employee on March 2 reported eye pain. This is according to an April 14 “Environment Health and Safety” contractor report that was leaked to the tech blog Gizmodo.

The document lists over 70 incidents. The two which involve prototype hardware that includes, or appears to include, laser light are:

  • “After BT4 user study, user advised study lead, that she experienced discomfort in her eye and said she was able to see the laser flash at several points during the study. Study lead referred her to optometrist and secured prototype unit for analysis.”
  • “Employee reported eye pain after working with new prototype, thought it may be associated with use. He noticed that the security seal on the magenta (outer) case had been broken and had thought the unit may have been tampered with.”

Gizmodo wrote that “a source inside Apple speculated that this [March 2] injury may have something to do with an augmented reality product Apple may be testing, something like glasses with an overhead display.”

Another tech blog, SlashGear, speculated on how Apple might be using lasers in or near eyes: “There are several possibilities as to how the lasers mentioned in one of the incident reports might be involved in that, depending on the technologies Apple is using. For instance, laser projection – where graphics are created directly on the eye using a system of targeted laser light – has been used by several companies wanting to make a daylight-visible UI. Another alternative, and possibly a more likely one, is laser eye-tracking. That relies on using lasers to monitor eye movement in real-time, so that the wearer’s direction of gaze can be calculated. Such a system would be able to figure out what the user was looking at and potentially control a user-interface that way.”

From Gizmodo and SlashGear

US: Man charged with assault for aiming laser at state trooper who was driving

On April 14 2017, a Michigan State Police trooper driving on his way to a crash had a laser aimed at him. The trooper’s partner was able to identify a male suspect who was taken into custody.

On April 17 state police announced that Jonathan Edward Rayner was arrested and a laser pointer was retrieved. Rayner had been a passenger in another car on the highway. The 32-year-old man was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and with “assaulting-resisting-obstructing a police officer.” Both assault charges are felonies. The maximum penalty is four years in prison on the dangerous weapon charge, and 20 years in prison for assaulting a police officer.

Jonathan Edward Rayner laser
Jonathan Edward Rayner


The incident happened on eastbound Interstate 94 in Wayne County at about 8 pm. The trooper was taken to a hospital “with vision problems and headache.” Later that day, state police tweeted “His vision has returned and he has been cleared. Other than a serious headache he should be back to work.”

From two tweets by Michigan State Police Metro Detroit, as initially reported in
ClickOnDetroit.com. Announcement of the suspect’s name and the charges from the Detroit News, Fox 2 Detroit and the Morning Sun. Thanks to David Bothner for bringing this to our attention.

Canada: Laser pointer aimed into home; police lecture offender

Police were called to a home in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on January 25 2017, where someone was aiming a laser pointer into the home. “They found the offending laser pointer operator and advised him about approved uses of laser pointers.”

From a “Daily police calls” column in the Moose Jaw Times Herald

US: $13,241 in fines, 15 days in jail for Washington state man who aimed at a ferry

On December 27 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty of $9,500 against Mark Raden, 27, for “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” by aiming a blue laser at a Washington state ferry on October 22 2015. One of the ferry’s officers was said to have burns on his eyelid.

Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.

On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”

A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."

Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.

In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.

From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.