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US: Man arrested for flashing patrol plane

A Thurston County man who was fooling around with a laser pointer could face federal charges after pointing the laser at a Washington State Patrol airplane.

"In our environment at night where there's little light, if we're temporarily blinded, we may lose our ability to see the ground, see the instruments,” said Trooper Jonathan Aames.

The troopers on board the airplane are usually looking for speeders or drunk drivers, but last Saturday night, they used their infrared cameras to find Tony Rhodes, the person 2,000 feet below who was flashing their plane with the green laser pointer.
"It's not very bright, it runs on AAA batteries,” said Rhodes. He says it was all an accident.

"I was just spinning around and all of a sudden, boom. There was a plane coming this way,” said Rhodes.

A half-hour later, the 31-year-old knew he had messed up when deputies came up to his driveway yelling at him. The laser was confiscated and Rhodes could face felony charges for tracking a plane with a laser.

"I didn't mean to hit the plane, but if there are going to be consequences, I hope other people will learn from the experience,” said Rhodes.

Since 2004, the FAA has documented 900 cases of lasers aimed at aircraft. Within the last month, two other state patrol planes were hit with powerful flashlights or spotlights.

Reported by KING 5 News; story found on Arizona station’s website. A video of the news story is available.