A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Citizen calls 911, concerned that laser-pointing man would aim at aircraft

The following appeared in a newspaper's list of police blotter reports from Kalispell, Montana:

"A customer leaving a store was concerned a man sitting in an SUV and playing with a green laser pointer in the parking lot would point it at the airstrip to mess with planes."

From the April 1, 20201 Daily Inter Lake. (Despite the date, the story and the account were standard news, not an April Fools joke.)

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

This is one of the first news items we have seen where a member of the general public notified authorities because of concern about pointing a laser beam at aircraft. It shows a case of a person having knowledge that lasers do present a hazard to aviation, and consequently taking action. This news item has been given a Tag "Notifying authorities" which we will use for any similar stories.

US: Man pleads guilty to aiming laser beam at airplane in Montana

From an October 28 2020 press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

A Missoula, Montana man today admitted he aimed a laser beam at an airplane as it was approaching the Great Falls airport, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Brian John Loven, 42, pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Loven faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for Feb. 25 2021. Loven was released.

The prosecution said in court documents that at about 9:40 p.m. on March 3 2020, two pilots operating a SkyWest flight reported that on their descent to the Great Falls airport, the plane was hit with a bright green laser that lit up the cockpit. The pilots reported that the incident occurred on the east end of town in the area of Giant Springs State Park.

Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies dispatched to the area located a Jeep driving slowly through the parking lot of Heritage Park, which was closed at the time. Loven was a passenger. The driver told deputies that she was learning how to drive a manual transmission car. While speaking with the driver, deputies noticed a small, black pen-like device sticking out of the center cup holder and asked about the item. The driver retrieved the device, said it was a laser pointer and activated it. The laser pointer projected a green light onto the dashboard.

Deputies interviewed Loven, who admitted to shining the laser at an airplane while it was approaching the airport. Loven explained that he was unaware it was a federal offense to shine a laser at a plane and just wanted to “test out the distance of the laser.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Starnes is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Transportation Security Administration, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and Airport Security.

Updated February 25 2021

Loven was sentenced on Feb. 25 to three years of probation. U.S. government prosecutors had recommended 15 to 21 months in prison, based on sentencing guidelines.

Contrary to some news reports, the only punishment was probation according to a spokesperson for the U.S. District Attorney's office who spoke to LaserPointerSafety.com on March 1 2021.

A story by KRTV news quoted court documents saying that "Loven’s lengthy criminal history spans three decades and includes convictions for burglary, theft, and various public nuisance crimes. At 42 years of age, Loven shows no signs of slowing down or aging out of his criminal conduct."

It is not known why Loven was given more lenient punishment than prosecutors sought.

From a February 25 2021 press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana, and KRTV.com