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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