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Charges laid after laser pointed at HAWCS and patrol units
Investigators have laid multiple drug, weapons and Aeronautics Act charges following an incident where a laser was pointed at several officers.
On Friday, July 17, 2020, at approximately 2:50 a.m., Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWCS) was responding to a call for service when a laser was pointed into the eyes of the Tactical Flight Officer working in HAWCS. Minutes later, a laser was also shone into the eyes of patrol officers who were in two different marked police vehicles in the downtown area. The Tactical Flight Officer was able to determine that the source of the laser came from an apartment located in the 200 block of 15 Avenue S.E.
Patrol units attended the apartment and conducted a door knock, however the occupants refused to answer the door. Later that day, investigators were able to collect additional evidence and as a result conducted a search warrant on the apartment.
The following items were seized during the search:
- 993.2 grams of methamphetamine, worth approximately $60,000
- $20,725 in Canadian currency
- A Class 3B laser
- Approximately 20 kg of an unknown substance, suspected to be a cutting agent
- A sawed-off shotgun
- A Browning .308 Winchester rifle
- Numerous rounds of ammunition
- Other items related to drug trafficking and fraud
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious offence that we will investigate thoroughly,” says Staff Sergeant Jodi Gach of the CPS District 1 General Investigations Unit. “In this case, investigators came together very quickly to identify the offender, and as a result a significant amount of methamphetamine and firearms were seized by police.”
Above: Police photo of laser seized from Kamran Sattar. Below: Similar-looking lasers are available on eBay's U.S. site. The seller states this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.
A 44-year-old man was arrested and was charged with possession of a restricted weapon. (New Zealand has strict laws about laser registration and use.) His court date was set for February 25.
A police spokesperson said "The lasering of an aircraft is totally unacceptable behaviour and could cause serious harm to the crew of Eagle who are there for the protection and safety of all of Christchurch."
Hamish Walker, Member of Parliament from Clutha-Southland, issued a press release saying the incident is evidence that the current law is too weak:
“People continue to point lasers at helicopters and planes which demonstrates the current penalties in place are doing little to deter offenders.
“My High-Power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill will not only deter offenders but also raise awareness about an issue which poses a great risk to pilots and passengers.
“The Bill proposes to double the maximum fine to $4000 and double the term of imprisonment from three to six months. It will also make it an offence to have a high-power laser in possession in both public and private places.
“Pilots continue to ask for harsher penalties as incidents keep occurring but this is being completely ignored by this Government.
“Laser incidents have increased 130 per cent since 2014, with 717 recorded incidents from 2014-2018 showing how crucial my Members Bill will be if we want to deter offenders.
“It’s time the Government stopped putting politics before safety and supported my Bill.”
From Stuff.co.nz (first day usage and arrest of laser suspect), and National (Hamish Walker press release)
On January 22 2020, a man in an industrial area aimed a green laser pointer at aircraft near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, including a United Airbus A320 and Cessna Skyhawk planes that were practicing takeoffs and landings. Most reports said four aircraft were targeted, although airport police quoted in one story said only two airplanes were struck. The same story indicated it was the Cessna student pilot who reported eyesight problems.
A Manatee County Sheriff's Office helicopter was sent to investigate. The man aimed his laser at the helicopter as well as throwing objects towards it. The crew was able to pinpoint his location, about a quarter mile from the runway approach.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they found 41-year-old Charlie James Chapman Jr. He was on a forklift, and made a "striking motion" with a hammer towards the officers. They used a Taser two times to subdue Chapman. A laser pointer was found in his pants pocket. He was taken to a hospital, and later to jail.
Charlie James Chapman Jr.
Chapman was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, pointing a laser at a pilot with injury, pointing a laser at a pilot without injury and resisting without violence.
The sheriff's office released video from the helicopter:
Some stills from the video:
The laser is aimed towards the helicopter.
An almost direct hit on the camera lens.
The man throws a small object (arrow) towards the helicopter — not reaching it, of course. The forklift can be seen on the right.
In an infrared view, officers (white shapes) move in to confront the perpetrator.
Chapman was apprehended at 8224 25th Court East in Sarasota, which is the worksite of Vulcan Materials Co., a ready-mix concrete supplier according to Google Maps.
From the Manatee County Sheriff's Office press release, the Orlando Sentinel via MSN, WRCBTV.com, ABC13.com, the Washington Post, WCTV, USA Today, and many other news sources and services. Thanks to Greg Makhov, Jack Dunn and Donna Colona for also bringing this to our attention.
Ground officers were sent to the laser location, which was the home of Rodger Dean Smith, 47. He denied aiming the laser at the helicopter. Officers found a laser pointer in the home.
Officers outside the home of Rodger Dean Smith, from the Sheriff's Office helicopter infrared camera
Officers also found 12 firearms. As a convicted felon, Smith is prohibited from having firearms.
He was charged with 12 counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, assault on a law enforcement officer, and pointing a laser at a driver or pilot.
After bonding out of jail, Smith said he did not aim at the aircraft: "They were wrong. I'll have my day in court. I did not point no laser, they do not know what they're talking about."
From the Orlando Sentinel and Spectrum News 13
US: Did not think laser could reach, says Washington state man arrested for aiming at sheriff's helicopter
McElfish, whose age was reported as 41 or 42, told deputies he had deliberately aimed at the helicopter, thinking the beam would not reach the aircraft.
He was arrested and charged with first degree unlawful discharge of a laser, which is a felony.
On February 17 2019, the helicopter was monitoring a fire at about 2:30 am when a red beam was shined at the aircraft three times. An infrared camera captured a suspect aiming towards the helicopter from the door of a screened-in porch.
Deputies on the ground went to a house in unincorporated Clearwater and arrested Brian Harting, who admitted aiming a laser at the aircraft.
Harting also said he was unaware that doing so was illegal. The laser had a label stating "Never aim at aircraft."
From the Miami Herald and WFLA
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: As far as we are aware, this is the first case where a person was apprehended with a laser that had a label warning against aiming at aircraft. Such a warning is not required in the U.S., as the Food and Drug Administration only requires labels that warn against injury to eyes or skin, or a potential burn hazard. FDA does recommend that laser pointer manufacturers add a a warning against aiming at aircraft, but this is not legally required.
Such a label has two advantages: 1) It can warn persons who read the label, and 2) it is easier to prosecute a person in court if they were specifically warned on the laser not to aim at aircraft, but they did so anyway. More discussion is on the page "What should be done about laser pointers?" in the two sections with labeling recommendations.
Ground officers arrested 42-year-old Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr. with a green laser pointer.
Two weeks later, FBI agents interviewed Clack. He said his friend had purchased the laser pointer and claimed the light could reach the moon. Clack then decided to aim it at a helicopter. He said this was done out of "stupidity" and he did not intend to harm anyone.
Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr.
On February 15 2019 Clack took a plea deal for the offense of Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. Details of the deal were not available. If the judge approves the plea deal, Clack will be sentenced later to a term of up to five years in prison.
The pilot directed police on the ground to the home of Darren Kenyon, 48. He told them he had been “playing” with the laser by pointing it out his bathroom window. The laser had been purchased by one of his six children while on holiday.
In Manchester magistrates court, Kenyon pleaded guilty to reckless behavior likely to endanger an aircraft. He will be sentenced at crown court.
From The Sun
The unnamed man was a passenger in a car when he aimed at the helicopter. The aircrew radioed to a ground unit that stopped the car. The man told the officer that a misdemeanor warrant had been issued for his arrest.
He was charged on the warrant and for violating his probation. Apparently, he was not charged for the laser offense.
From the Omaha World-Herald
Gary Cameron believed the police were spying on him when he repeatedly shone the Class 2 (less than one milliwatt) at the helicopter — even as ground officers were interviewing him, prior to arrest.
According to his defense lawyer, Cameron had psychological problems for which he was seeking treatment. He pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct.
From the Scottish Sun
UPDATED December 22 2017 - Cameron was sentenced September 7 2017 to hours of unpaid work and to supervision. As of December 21 2017, Cameron had not yet been provided with information about the unpaid work order, or the start date. A court review hearing was set for March 23 2018. From the Clydebank Post.
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
The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony
Two laser pens were seized:
Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.
While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).
From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News
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.
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.”
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: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession
The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.
A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.
Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.
UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.
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
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: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack
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
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
US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers
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.
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.
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
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
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
In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.
The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.
From the Malta Independent
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
From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today
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.
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.
Gary Don Carroll
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
The pilot located the house and called in ground units. While police were talking to a woman, Tyler John Pennywitt, 40, was seen running through the house. He was arrested while hiding in the shower.
Pennywitt said he had pointed a laser at aircraft “more than a dozen times” but that he did not know the laser could reach to the aircraft. While he was arrested for a Florida felony, misuse of a laser device on an aircraft, he could also face federal criminal charges.
Tyler John Pennywitt
Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.
As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.
The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”
When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”
LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...
Glenn Stephen Hansen
Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.
Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).
Click to read more...
The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”
The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.
From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
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.
From This Is The West Country
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
A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.
Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)
The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.Click to read more...
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
A number of similar illuminations from Georgsmarienhütte had been previously reported. Police said they would investigate whether the man arrested was responsible for the other illuminations as well. The man would be charged with “dangerous interference with the aircraft”, which carries a sentence of six months to 10 years.
From NWZ Online and Bild.de (both in German)
On October 21 2009, the California Highway Patrol was conducting a felony traffic stop near Nighswander’s home. Two CHP officers, both licensed pilots, were providing aerial support in a helicopter approximately 700 feet above the ground. Nighswander pointed a green laser device with a range of up to seven miles at the pilots to see if they would react. He pointed the laser at the helicopter no fewer than four times, affecting the pilots’ vision and ability to control the craft. Fortunately, the pilots were affected at separate times, kept the helicopter in the air, and identified the source of the laser.Click to read more...
Frank Newton Anderson
The pilot, Kevin Poston, was patrolling over Orlando when he saw a lighting-like flash. “Almost initially I thought maybe we had hit something”, he was quoted as saying. Spotter Patrick Deans, in the back of the helicopter, said “it was like a green flash right in front of my face, startling.” He saw a vehicle on the ground, in a parking lot. Then the vehicle started to flee, giving Anderson away. He stopped in another parking lot to hide. When ground units directed by the helicopter confronted him, Anderson said the laser (found 100 feet from his vehicle) was not his. However, the laser’s packaging was found in his vehicle.
Anderson appears to be the owner of a Winter Park, Florida security company, Viking Protective Group. When arrested, he was wearing a shirt with “Security” printed on it, and in his vehicle were handcuffs, a mask, camouflage paint, knives, and a Glock gun. He was also ticketed for having an expired license tag.
WFTV reporter Kathi Belich, in reporting the story, said “I hate to use a bad pun, but on so many levels he’s not too bright.”
From WFTV News. The website includes a video from WFTV’s Kathi Belich
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.
Police located the house where the lights were coming from. On March 4 they arrested Raymond Jeffrey Poli. He was charged on March 16 with interfering with the operation of an aircraft, endangering life, and obstruction of justice.
Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
More details from The Columbus Dispatch
The helicopter pilot was quoted as saying that if you shine laser pointers at pilots, "there's a good chance you're going to wind up in jail. At the worst, you could bring down an aircraft and kill a lot of people."
Full story from The Buffalo News