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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.
The sideshow took place at about 2 a.m. in Oakland, with about 200 cars present. Fireworks were shot into the air and there were reports of gunfire.
View from the helicopter’s infrared camera, showing cars doing doughnuts, and spectators
A green laser beam was aimed at a CHP helicopter several times. The crew was able to direct ground officers to a white sedan, where the 23-year-old was arrested and faces “several state and federal felony charges.”
From KVTU.com. See also this story about lasers being aimed into the crowd at a December 2017 Oakland sideshow.
At about 12:45 am on October 22 2017, the helicopter was providing support to ground units responding to a domestic violence disturbance when it was continuously illuminated by a green laser beam. The tactical flight officer was hit three times in the eyes.
The pilot had momentary flashblindness and lost night vision. The tactical flight officer had watering eyes, discomfort and pain. There was no reported eye injury.
The helicopter broke off from its mission to pursue the laser perpetrator.
The beam came from the driver’s side of a car traveling north on Highway 99 in Fresno. Ground officers pursued Alvarez’s car, which began a high-speed chase. Twice during the chase Alvarez stopped to drop off passengers. The car eventually crashed into a median. Alvarez got out and ran towards neighboring homes. He was apprehended by officers in the backyard of a home after a short foot pursuit.
Alvarez had minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, a baggie was found with substances suspected to be marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Inside the car’s driver side door pocket police found a laser marked “Laser 303” with a green multi-dot beam (perhaps a diffraction grating making a star-field-like pattern) and a danger label.
After an FBI investigation, Alvarez was charged with violating federal law by knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path. In addition, there were two previous felony warrants out for Alvarez’s arrest on other, unspecified charges.
From a report by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is here.
UPDATED May 7 2018 — Michael Vincent Alvarez was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the October 22 2017 incident. From KMPH and the Fresno Bee.
Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno
On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.
However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.
When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.
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 20-year-old man from Preston was charged with interfering with conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon. An 18-year-old man from Coburg will be charged on summons with possessing a prohibited weapon. The other two men were released without charges.
From ABC News
POLICE INVESTIGATE LASER LIGHT ATTACKS - MIRANDA
Police are investigating two separate laser light incidents in Sydney’s south.
About 7:50pm, Sunday 6 May 2012, a Boeing 767 was on approach to Sydney Airport and flying over the Kurnell area when a green laser was pointed at the aircraft. The plane landed safely and police were notified about the incident. Despite police patrols of Kurnell, Bonna Point Reserve and the Botany Bay National Park the culprit of the laser attack was not located.
In another incident, about 12:45am today police were called to a petrol station on the corner of Port Hacking Road and The Kingsway after the store attendant reported a green laser light being shone at the premises. The beam was reported to have come from the vicinity of Kareena Road and despite patrols of the area police could not find any trace of those involved.
Police from Miranda Local Area Command are investigating both incidents and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Members of the public are reminded that high powered lasers are prohibited weapons and cannot be possessed without a permit.
[End NSW Police Force press release]
The map shows the Kurnell region (red oval) where the laser was aimed at the aircraft,
and the location of the petrol station (“A” marker), relative to Sydney Airport (center of map).
He pleaded guilty on December 8 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer three times at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter in July. Gable had been expected to receive 200 hours on a work crew, in addition to the jail time. The TMZ.com report did not mention the 200 hours.
From TMZ.com and the Los Angeles Times. LaserPointerSafety.com has additional stories about Gable’s July 28 2011 lasing incident, his August 26 arraignment and his December 8 guilty plea.
The helicopter was hit on January 6 2012, after returning the hikers to their automobile. The crew identified the source and directed ground officers to a house in Surprise, a town located 20 miles northwest of Phoenix, where four juveniles were found with a laser pointer. Apparently they had also been aiming the laser at cars on a nearby road. After investigation, the 14-year-old was arrested on a felony charge of endangerment.
Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a statement that “this person could have seriously injured my employees and put more lives at risk.”
From AZcentral.com and AZfamily.com
The January 3 2012 incident happened in Glendora, 23 miles east of Los Angeles. The police helicopter was near Citrus College when it was hit three or four times by a green laser beam aimed from a car. Ground officers stopped the car, found a laser pointer and arrested the passenger Jerrod Ferren, 31. He was charged with suspicion of using a laser light at the helicopter, and was held on $20,000 bail. During the stop, driver William Dixon, 26, was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence, and for possession of a controlled substance. Bail for Dixon was set at $10,000.
From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune
UPDATE: On January 4, Los Angeles TV channel KABC ran a two-minute segment about the Glendora laser arrest, and about laser illuminations in general:
US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours
Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.
On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.
In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”
From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
Click to read more...
The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.
Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.
From Kent Online
On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.
The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”
French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”
From the Birmingham Mail
Police received several calls that a group of people in a silver people carrier was shining a green laser on the A40 near Witney, at about 8 p.m on September 15 2011. Police also were contacted by air traffic control staff after an aircraft was targeted with a green laser at 8 p.m. The police declined to release details of the flight or its effect, if any, on the flight until statements had been taken from the pilots and crew. The fine for aiming at aircraft is up to £2,500.
From the Witney Gazette. This news item is being cross-posted in on the News/Non-aviation incidents page as well.
The charges stem from an incident July 28 where Gable aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, temporarily flashblinding two officers on board.
From TMZ and Reuters
UPDATE August 26 2011: Gable pleaded not guilty to the charges at his August 26 arraignment. He was freed on $250,000 bail. His next court appearance will be September 8, at a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. From the Contra Costa Times
UPDATE December 8 2011: Gable pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. In return, other counts were dropped. At sentencing January 12 2012, prosecutors are expected to ask for a 10 day jail sentence plus 200 days on a work crew. See news item here.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
According to police spokeswoman Sara Faden, the LAPD helicopter pilots observed “a green laser light shining on them and at that time they requested additional ground units to come to the scene. They observed a vehicle with two occupants and they found the laser that was shined on the airship and they were both taken into custody."Click to read more...
The four suspects, all in their 20’s, fled across the state border, pursued by police. Joy McElwain, Steven Springer and Brian C. Enlow were arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They have been charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing police. Jason A. Hill was arrested separately; charges in the laser incident will be brought against him shortly.
In addition to the state charges, authorities are considering also bringing federal charges.
From WLKY.com, the Courier-Journal.com, and WHAS11 NewsClick to read more...
The arrest site is about 5 miles east of Midway Airport:
From the Chicago Tribune. Thanks to Joanna Skubish for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE, MARCH 19 2011: The aircraft was a Southwest Airlines flight from San Francisco, with 137 passengers and a crew of five, that was landing at Midway. Police arrested Shania Smith, 21, and Elvin Slater, 23. Smith had just met Slater for the first time earlier that day. Smith said “I don’t know how it got in my car”, and that the first time she saw it was during the arrest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Slater’s uncle said He's a good kid. He just didn't know what he was doing.” Both Smith and Slater were charged with “discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and discharging a laser at an aircraft”, which are misdemeanors.
Google Street View of the intersection where the arrest took place,
looking west towards Midway Airport
From an updated Chicago Tribune article
UPDATE, APRIL 1 2011: Smith pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and received a 30-day jail sentence, 18 months probation, and one month in a sheriff’s work program. More information is here.
15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
”This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.
The June 3 2009 incident caused the helicopter pilots to be “momentarily blinded” and to change course -- breaking off from assisting police in a burglary investigation. The helicopter then tracked the car from which the light came. Officers on the ground stopped the vehicle and found Wells and a laser inside. During an interview with FBI agents in January 2010, "the defendant admitted that he pointed a green laser at the helicopter, which he knew was a police helicopter," according to the plea agreement, which says "he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." In July 2010, Wells pled guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft.
From the Los Angeles Times; also at Gawker, Palm Springs Desert Sun and KESQ TV. Note: Sources differ on Wells’ age at sentencing; some say he was 19, others say he was 20. Sources also differ on the maximum penalty possible for interference with an operator of an aircraft; some say 3.5 years is the maximum, others say 20 years. And, sources differ on the date of the guilty plea; some say July 2010, others say September 2010.
It happened early in the morning of January 28 2010, near International Drive and Interstate 4. The pilot was forced to break away from a law enforcement call, to avoid the “potentially blinding light”. An observer in the helicopter was able to track the laser to a “carload of young men” traveling on I-4. Other law enforcement officers stopped the car and arrested Azevedo.
News reports state “this is the fourth case of this type of crime in recent months. Last month [Dec. 2009] the Direct TV blimp was lasered on its final approach to Orlando Executive Airport after covering the Champs Bowl game in Orlando.”
Three years in prison for lasering airplanes and other offenses
According to the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) prosecutor's office, the laser incidents unfolded this way:
Dewalt bought a high-power laser off the Internet and brought it to a party June 4 2008. That night, flight crews of two planes about to land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport reported that someone hit their cockpits with a laser. One airliner carried about 20 people, the other about 100.
About an hour later, a laser hit the cockpit of a MetroHealth Medical Center helicopter flying a patient to the hospital from Elyria.
The helicopter pilot told Cleveland police the area where the laser came from and when a pilot for the police helicopter flew over to investigate, he, too, was hit in the eye by a laser that was coming from a moving car.
Cleveland police stopped the car a short time later and found Dewalt in the back seat with a laser.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. See also Fox News.