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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 claims this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.
About one hour later, a driver reported being blinded by a light in the same area.
Police asked anyone with information to call their Crime Stoppers line.
From 660 News
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights
Click to read more...
During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.
From 660 News and CBC News
There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.
From the Calgary Herald
His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”
From the Calgary Herald
UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.
Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.
From the Calgary Herald
The Calgary Police Service’s Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWC), was on patrol when hit by a green beam at 10:45 pm. The crew then put on protective glasses and began a 30-minute search during which they were hit two more times. During the incident, one runway was closed by the Calgary Airport Authority, as a safety precaution.
Police tracked the beam to McConnell’s home about 10 km (6 mi) away, arrested him and seized what they describe as a “high-powered laser”. McConnell claimed it was an accident: “I was playing with it inside the house and it hit a mirror. It’s not like I was inside pointing it at them. It’s pure coincidence.”
After the incident, the helicopter crew was grounded pending the results of eye tests to determine whether their vision was damaged.
From CBC News, the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald
UPDATE May 31 2011: The Calgary Sun has a short article about initial judicial proceedings against McConnell. The trial phase should begin shortly. From the Calgary Sun.
UPDATE 2 June 19 2012: On June 18 2012, McConnell pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of mischief causing damage to property, and to projecting a bright light at an aircraft to cause a hazard under the Aeronautics Act.
He received a six month conditional sentence followed by six months of probation. The first two months of the conditional term will be under house arrest; the remaining four months he will have a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. He also must complete 25 hours of community service and undergo counseling. Finally, he will not be allowed to possess laser pointers. Both McConnell’s lawyer and the crown prosecutor agreed that the sentencing conditions were an adequate punishment.
According to his lawyer, McConnell did not realize the seriousness of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He said the incident was due to “basically stupid curiosity.” From the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.
David Mackow, 29, who pleaded guilty to the federal charge, was sentenced on Monday and ordered to pay the fine within 30 days or face jail time. He also has to forfeit his laser pointer.
In October 2007, Mackow shone the pointer, commonly used in boardroom presentations, from his Beltline apartment at the flight that was landing in Calgary.
The pilot reported the incident and Calgary police dispatched its HAWCS helicopter to investigate. Mackow then pointed the green beam into the helicopter.
More details are available from CBC News