A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

News: Non-aviation incidents


This webpage has a chronological list of selected laser pointer incidents that are NOT related to aviation. We also have news pages for aviation incidents, and for all other laser pointer news (includes overall statistics about incidents, new laws and regulations, and safety warnings and publications). In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.

We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.

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US: 113 federal agents in Portland said to be injured by protesters' lasers; none were permanently blinded

Federal officers incurred 113 eye injuries during protests in Portland, according to Senate testimony from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official.

All officers recovered their sight, according to deputy director Ken Cuccinelli, speaking on August 4 2020. This appears to include the "three officers who currently have eye injuries and [who] may not recover sight." This statement was said on July 21 2020 by a Federal Protective Services official. (FPS is a division of DHS.) Some persons who repeated this, such as the White House press secretary and the Attorney General, repeated the "may not" qualifier, while others — generally news or commentators — said flatly that officers were permanently blinded.

Cuccinelli said "We've had a number of officers who have days-long blindness. So far they've all come back, if you will. But you also get what's called flash blindness … where you can't quite see your entire field of vision for a period." [As explained below, flash blindness is not an "eye injury" and should not have been included in the total of 113 "eye injuries.]

Cuccinelli told the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution that protesters began aiming at police from closer distances. Since laser beams spread out, this reduces the spread and thus increases the hazard potential. Protesters do this, he said, so police cannot identify suspects.

2020-08-04 DHS Senate hearing commercial grade laser CSPAN squashed


Cuccinelli demonstrated what he called a "commercial grade" laser by aiming it into his hand. He said such a laser could be purchased on Amazon.com.

During his testimony Cuccinelli stated there were at least 277 injuries to approximately 140 federal agents at the Portland federal courthouse. Of these, 113 were eye injuries (the most common), followed by noise injuries and injuries caused by contact with an object.

From the New York Post and the Portland Tribune. Also see our first story about the July 21 "three officers may be blinded" statement, and our page about Laser use during protests.


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

It is certainly worrisome that such a large number of eye effects and injuries were reported. As discussed in depth on our "Laser use during protests" page, no one should aim a laser at anyone's eyes or head — not even in a protest situation.

On the other hand it is a relief that three injuries, said on July 21 to possibly be permanent, appear not to have had permanent effects. As Cuccinelli testified,"So far they've all come back, if you will."

IS FLASH BLINDNESS AN INJURY? NO.

Cuccinelli incorrectly seems to be including flash blindness as an "injury" in his list of 113. He correctly described flash blindness as being like "the old Kodak cameras where you get that blue spot" from the camera flash.

Laser flash blindness is essentially the same mechanism. Bright laser light causes a bright temporary spot with an afterimage that gradually fades away. The fading may take seconds, minutes or hours — but just like with an ordinary camera flash, it does fade, causing no permanent injury.

No one has ever said that a camera flash causes an eye injury. Therefore, the list of 113 injuries should NOT include camera flash-type temporary flash blindness.

Laser safety experts agree. Afterimages are not injuries since they are caused by saturation of rhodopsin or "bleaching" in the outer segments of photoreceptors that results in a localized reduced sensitivity for a time. In contrast, an injury results in a minimally visible lesion which histologically involves the retinal pigmented epithelium and the photoreceptors.

It is not known how many of the 113 stated "eye injuries" were flash blindness or similar (e.g., not actual injuries).

DOES AMAZON.COM SELL THESE? YES.

Cuccinelli said high powered lasers were available for sale at Amazon.com.

We conducted a search of Amazon's U.S. website on the evening of August 4 2020. The search term "high power laser pointer" turned up at least two listings for lasers that looked like what Cuccinelli demonstrated, both in size and in beam color. The two listings have different brand names (Loyalfire and JCKSY) but appear to be essentially identical, using similar or identical photos. Here is the Loyalfire laser:

2020-08-04 Amazon high powered laser Loyalfire squashed

From the form factor, type of battery, and description ("it can light a match or paper easily"), this laser device is likely substantially over the U.S. FDA limit of 5 milliwatts for a laser to be sold as a "pointer" or for pointing applications.

Amazon's laser policy in the past has been to not sell laser pointers or handheld lasers over 5 mW (e.g., Class 3B or 4). The policy currently is behind a wall so that only Amazon Sellers can see the policy.

The Loyalfire (and JCKSY, and many other lasers at Amazon) appear to violate that policy.

Note that sellers can get around this by avoiding the word "pointer"or "pointing", and by claiming their lasers are less than 5 mW. Yet based on the form factor, batteries, and description ("burning", "cutting") a buyer can suspect or know that the laser is well over 5 mW. As far as we know, Amazon does not test, validate, certify or otherwise screen the actual lasers.

Also, in a larger sense it does not matter too much if Amazon.com stops selling such lasers. They are readily available from many other sites on the Internet, some that specialize only in pointers and handheld lasers.

DID EYE PROTECTION HELP? UNKNOWN.

We have not seen news stories stating whether Cuccinelli testified if officers were using laser eye protection, and if that was effective. On July 10 2020 the Federal Protective Service (a division of the Department of Homeland Security) issued a sole-source contract for 1,000 pairs of Stingerhawk FT-2 Laser Protective Eyewear from Revision Military. It is not known if the glasses were delivered in time to be useful to the officers.

US: Three officers in Portland may be permanently blinded

On July 21 2020, a federal official told a press conference that three federal agents in Portland, Oregon may have been permanently blinded during demonstrations at a federal courthouse.

Claims of eye injuries


Officers were attempting to defend the building. "When [Federal Protective Service] officers responded to put out these fires, glass bottles were thrown and lasers – which can cause permanent blindness – were shined in their eyes. We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks," said FPS Deputy Director of Operations Richard Cline.

The assertion was repeated on July 24 by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: "….tragically, three federal officers were likely left permanently blinded by the rioters using lasers pointed directly into their eyes." On July 28, Attorney General William P. Barr, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in his prepared remarks that "A number of federal officers have been injured, including … three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind."

As of July 28 2020, there was no additional information about the officers' diagnosis or prognosis. [Incidentally, some news sources and commentators have stated flatly that the officers are permanently blind. The fact that there has been only one official statement on the prognosis ("they currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight") has been lost or ignored.]

[See the August 4 2020 update below where it appears the three officers are OK.]


Reporters noted red, green and purple laser beams aimed at officers through the courthouse doors. At least one person may be charged. According to the Associated Press, "[c]ourt papers in a federal case against a man accused of shining a laser in the eyes of Federal Protective Service agents show that Portland police turned him over to U.S. authorities after federal officers identified him." ProPublica reported that the charging documents said an agent "reported seeing spots in his eyes for 15 minutes after the laser attack.) [As of July 30, LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find the filing or any additional information about this case.]

Force authorized against laser attacks


In response, Customs and Border Protection has authorized the use of "less-lethal force" against protesters with lasers. CBP said in a memo that pepper spray balls or beanbag shotguns are allowed because lasers aimed at eyes or through camera lenses are "remarkably dangerous because of their concentrated energy."

Protesters using lasers would first be issued a verbal warning. Then CBP agents targeted would decide whether less-lethal force is justified. The calculation should be based on the crime committed and the level of danger.

“Officers/agents are authorized by law to use objectively reasonable force to effect the arrest and protect against harm to the officer/agent or others,” wrote Charles A. Bishop, who oversees the agency’s law enforcement compliance directorate. “Officers/agents should consider all reasonable tools, tactics and equipment to cease an assault with a handheld laser in accordance with CBP Use of Force Policy and U.S. constitutional standards.”

Bishop said without a threat of serious bodily injury or death, “CBP does not recognize the threat of handheld visible lasers as one that would require a deadly force response.”

Eyewear purchased to defend against lasers


To defend themselves the Federal Protective Service is buying 1,000 pairs of Stingerhawk FT-2 Laser Protective Eyewear from Revision Military. In its sole-source contract document dated July 10 2020, FPS said "readily accessible and affordable" lasers can cause dark spots, hazy vision, headaches or retinal bleeding. The contract also noted that Seattle police officers who used laser-resistant glasses "expressed that they were very effective."

From Fox News (initial blinding report), the New York Post (White House statement), Politico (AG Barr statement), the Associated Press via MSN (court papers), ProPublica (15 minutes of spots), the Washington Times (CBP response), Williamette Week (FPS eyewear)

For more information, see the page
Laser use during protests and LaserPointerSafety.com news articles about non-laser eye injuries during protests.

UPDATE AUGUST 4 2020: The three officers said to possibly have permanent blindness appear to be OK, with their sight recovered. In Senate testimony, a Department of Homeland Security official said there were 113 eye injuries to federal officers in Portland, and "[s]o far they've all kind of come back". The Federal Protective Service is part of DHS, so the official's statement would have included the three injured officers.

Hong Kong: Man acquitted on charge of posessing laser pointer weapon during protests

A 39-year-old man was acquitted on July 24 2020 of having weapons including a baton and a laser pointer in the trunk of his car during September 2019 unrest in Hong Kong.

Ng Kai-nam testified he picked up four hitchhikers going to a demonstration. He told them to leave their bags in the car, and that he did not realize there were items defined as weapons in the bags.

The acting principal magistrate ruled that Ng knew the protesters had prohibited weapons, but found him not guilty since prosecutors were unable to prove if he knew the nature of the weapons.

From the South China Morning Post

Hong Kong: 100 hours community service for shining lasers at police

A 37-year-old bank manager was sentenced July 23 2020 to 100 hours of community service for aiming laser beams at vehicles and officers at a Hong Kong police station on January 1 2020. The incident did not appear to be connected to protests against police which occurred in Hong Kong during 2019.

Kwok Fu-wah was said to have aimed the lasers "out of impulse". The incident interfered with police duties but there were no injuries reported.

He was originally charged with possessing offensive weapons in a public place which is punishable by imprisonment. However, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to "a diminished charge of similar nature" resulting in the lesser sentence of community service. The principal magistrate noted Kwok had a good background and was sorry for his actions.

His two laser pointers were examined by police, who said the "two devices could cause ocular damage if the eyes were directly exposed to the laser beam within 60 meters [200 feet]."

From the South China Morning Post


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

The 60 meter "ocular damage" distance probably refers to the laser's Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance. For a handheld laser with a typical beam of 1 milliradian beam spread, this corresponds to a laser of roughly 70 milliwatts. (The laser color would not be a factor in injury, only the power and divergence.)

In many countries the legal limit for a laser pointer is 1 mW; in the U.S. pointers of up to 5 mW are allowed to be sold.

A NOHD of 60 meters does not mean that injury will occur at that distance. As explained elsewhere, there is a safety or reduction factor built into the NOHD. At around 20 meters (66 feet), a 70 mW 1 mrad beam with a nominal 1/4 second exposure could cause the smallest detectable change in the retina about half the time, under laboratory conditions. Beyond 20 meters the chance of injury becomes even less until at the 60 meter NOHD it is considered an allowable exposure.

A one-quarter second exposure is used in the laser safety field for cases of accidental or unwanted beams. A person will blink, move or otherwise avoid eye exposure the laser light within that time.

The distance from Kwok to the police officers was not stated in the article.

US: Los Angeles officer has eye injury from laser

The following is from a news release dated July 19 2020, issued by the Los Angeles Police Department:


Suspect Arrested After Pointing Laser Pointer At Officer

On July 16th, 2020, around 8:40 a.m., a LAPD police officer in full uniform was in the area of 2nd St. and San Pedro when he felt a burning sensation in his eye. The officer believed the burning sensation may have been caused by a laser pointer. He was able to locate the suspect, 45-year-old Douglas Meyer, on a balcony in a nearby building. Additional officers went to the building and took Meyer into custody. Meyer was booked for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Police Officer, booking #5973501.

The officer began to experience nausea, vomiting, an intense headache, and blurred vision. He has received initial medical treatment, but will require follow up treatment with a specialist due to the seriousness of the sustained injury and symptoms.



Hong Kong: Conviction upheld based on laser pointer being an offensive weapon

On May 20 2020, a Hong Kong judge upheld the conviction of a 16-year-old boy for possessing a laser pointer during September 2019 protests. Under Hong Kong law, laser pointers can be classified as offensive weapons.

In November 2019 the unnamed teenager was the first protester to be found guilty of carrying a laser pointer as an offensive weapon. He was sentenced to a rehabilitation center for three months.

During his May 2020 appeal, defense counsel said the laser pointer could have been used peacefully to point at buildings and draw attention. Counsel further said there was no evidence the teen had used the pointer, and that he had been cooperative with police.

However, the appeals judge agreed with prosecutors at the November 2019 trial. They said the teen was wearing protest gear including a helmet and he must have intended to use it to inflict harm or discomfort upon others. The judge also noted the teen did not present evidence or testify to contradict the prosecutors' claims.

The judge also said that using laser pointers on buildings for peaceful protest was "a fanciful notion".

A government expert testified that the laser device could cause harm if it were pointed at the human eye within a distance of 36 meters (118 feet).

From the South China Morning Post


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

The 36 meter "ocular damage" distance probably refers to the laser's Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance. For a handheld laser with a typical beam of 1 milliradian beam spread, this corresponds to a laser of roughly 25 milliwatts. (The laser color would not be a factor in injury, only the power and divergence.)

In many countries the legal limit for a laser pointer is 1 mW; in the U.S. pointers of up to 5 mW are allowed to be sold.

A NOHD of 36 meters does not mean that injury will occur at that distance. As explained elsewhere, there is a safety or reduction factor built into the NOHD. At around 12 meters (39 feet), a 25 mW 1 mrad beam with a nominal 1/4 second exposure could cause the smallest detectable change in the retina about half the time, under laboratory conditions. Beyond 12 meters the chance of injury becomes even less until at the 36 meter NOHD it is considered an allowable exposure.

A one-quarter second exposure is used in the laser safety field for cases of accidental or unwanted beams. A person will blink, move or otherwise avoid eye exposure the laser light within that time.

US: Man uses laser to cause other drivers to get out of his way; is arrested

A man driving on Highway 101 near Sausalito, California on March 10 2020 used a "high-power" green laser to aim at other vehicles so he could pass them.

The man lased a California Highway Patrol car, lighting up the interior and temporarily blinding both officers in the car. One was able to provide a description of the laser-targeting vehicle to a CHP unit further ahead. The car was stopped and the driver was questioned. CHP said "He was in fact the person responsible for the laser strike and [was placed] under arrest. A search of the vehicle located a high-power green laser pen which had been used.

From KPIX CBS

Ireland: €80,000 award to man injured by laser pen in school

Twenty-four year-old Dillon Breen of Dublin was awarded €80,000 (USD $90,400) on March 6 2020, for losing 10 percent of his right eye's vision in a laser pen incident that took place when Breen was approximately 16. The award was against Syncron Limited of Ballycoolin, Dublin, the company that sold the €10 laser pen on the internet.

It was sold to a classmate of Breen who brought it to St Kevin's College on May 25 2012. Another classmate accidentally aimed the laser's green beam at Breen while a teacher was out of the classroom. Breen immediately felt a "burning sensation." At hospital he was told his retina was burned. Breen has a permanent spot in the center of his right eye, removing about 10 percent of his vision and requiring him to wear glasses.

Breen sued the school, St Kevin's and the laser pen distributor, Syncron.

Justice Michael Hanna found that the school had no responsibility. He said the teacher was entitled to be out of the classroom on necessary business, and if the school was aware of the laser it would have taken action.

Breen's suit said the laser pen was more powerful than allowed by EU directives and thus was dangerous. The judge agreed, noting it should not have been offered for sale, and that Syncron was entirely responsible for Breen's injury. Syncron did not appear in court and did not defend itself.

It is not known if Breen will be able to collect the judgement from Syncron as they are no longer trading.

From Herald.ie and the Irish Times (March 4 2020 article about the lawsuit, March 5 2020 article about the judge's decision and award)

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the first case we are aware of where a civil suit has been brought against a laser pointer distributor or manufacturer for an eye injury. There have been cases where government agencies have taken administrative or criminal action against illegal imports.

Canada: Driver films laser coming from oncoming car

A driver in Regina, Saskatchewan provided video of a laser being aimed at him from an oncoming car in an incident that occurred October 17 2019.

Ben Leech told the Regina Leader Post that the light "was super bright, but it only was pointing at my face for around a second, so it didn’t do too much damage or anything. It was just kind of a shock to see it." The exposure left white spot afterimages for a few seconds. There was no permanent damage.





Four frames in quick succession from a dashcam video showing the laser beam on the pavement, hood, windshield, and in the air. The video is at YouTube.


Leech could not identify the car so he did not report it to the Regina Police Service. An RPS spokesperson said they were not previously aware of automobile drivers being targeted by lasers, although it has happened to aircraft in the area.

From the Regina Leader Post, February 15 2020

US: Pointing gunsight laser at man a factor in fatal "stand your ground" shooting

On March 20, 2016, an angry, frightened man aimed a laser aiming device on a handgun at an unarmed man who had knocked on the wrong door. When the laser beam went on the unarmed man's face, he became angry, sprayed water on the gunman, made threats and charged. The gunman fired, killing the unarmed man.

Both men lived in a Fort Myers (Florida) apartment complex, in units identically numbered "102". Ryan Modell, 32, had been heavily drinking on March 19 to celebrate a new job. At about 2:30 am on March 20, Modell — wearing only shorts— knocked on the door of 46-year-old Steve Taylor, in a different unit 102.

Taylor got his 10 mm Glock handgun and answered the door. He told Modell he had the wrong unit, but to Taylor, the intoxicated Modell didn't respond and appeared drugged. Taylor said he pointed the gun at Modell, warning him not to approach, but Modell charged.

Taylor closed the door, injuring Modell's toe. Taylor's wife called police. Taylor went outside and found Modell hosing off his bloody toe. Taylor aimed the gun at Modell and turned on the laser pointer aiming device. That is when Modell sprayed water, made threats and charged.

Mark O'Mara, a lawyer for Modell's father, said Modell had an understandable reaction for a person who thought he was about to be shot. He said "If you put a laser on my chest, there is one of two things I am going to do: duck and run, or kill you."

Taylor says he fired when Modell was within two feet; O'Mara says evidence indicates it was several feet back.

The 2016 case became controversial due to Florida's "stand your ground" law being used. In January 2020, O'Mara asked Florida's governor to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the shooting, and wants Taylor charged with second-degree murder.

From WEARTV.com

US: Teen aiming gunsight laser pointer at friend pulls trigger, kills him

A 15-year-old boy shot and killed a friend as they were playing video games on January 26 2020 in Pataskala, Ohio.

Noah Bigham aimed a 9mm handgun which had a built-in laser pointer sight at his lifelong friend Hunter Cooper's eyes, to distract him during a game. Bigham pulled the trigger, firing the gun and killing his 15-year-old Cooper.

He was arrested and was charged as a juvenile with reckless homicide, a third-degree felony if committed by an adult.

Bigham's attorney called the killing "unintentional": "“The home, unfortunately, had complete access to handguns. It is my understanding the juveniles were able to have about unfettered access to firearms. This is what happens when you have firearms accessible. It’s just awful."

A police detective declined to say whether it was an accident: “We definitely can’t acknowledge an accidental shooting. We’re treating it as any shooting would be, at this point. In any investigation like this, you can’t rule anything out.”

From the Columbus Dispatch

Lebanon: Protesters use laser pointers against police

The photo below shows protesters in Beirut on January 22 2020 using laser pointers against special forces police.



They have been protesting the Lebanese government's limit on cash withdrawals from banks and ATMs, with the country on the brink of economic collapse. Riots have broken out where banks and ATMs are attacked.

There was no additional information regarding laser use or misuse during the protests — just the photo.

From the Daily Mail

South Africa: Laser beam aimed at Sea Rescue vessels

South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute said that for the first time, laser beams were aimed at NSRI sea vessels engaged in a search, which "completely disrupted" the search. Previously, helicopters were the laser targets.

From News24

US: Man kills neighbor with laser pointer, thinking it is a gun, after ongoing laser harassment

An Arkansas man was charged with first-degree murder of a neighbor who allegedly harassed him with laser lights. 56-year-old Dale Wayne Bryant killed the neighbor during an altercation as the victim picked up a laser pointer that Bryant thought was a gun. Bryant fired in self-defense.

Bryant lived in Combs, Arkansas, next to a group of people who would shine red, blue and green laser light into his windows at night, and into his face as he tried to sleep in a recliner in his living room. Bryant reported the laser harassment to police for a few months prior to the August 8 2018 shooting. He also reported loud music, loose dogs, and the possibility his neighbors were making methamphetamine.

During an altercation on August 8 2018, one of the alleged harassers, 30-year-old Samuel Scott Hicks threatened to shoot Bryant, according to Bryant's lawyer. Hicks bend down to pick up something off the ground. Bryant saw something in Hicks' hand and thought it was a shotgun, but Hicks apparently picked up a silver-colored laser pointer, which was later found at the scene. Bryant thought it was a gun and shot Hicks, killing him.

At trial in September 2019, a prosecutor disputed Bryant's account of laser harassment. He said Hicks had a new laser pointer that he was playing with, but he did not point it at Bryant's house.

On September 13 2019, after two hours of deliberation a jury decided Bryant shot in self-defense and found him not guilty.

Bryant's troubles were not over as Hicks' estate filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit on September 3 2019. It is not known if the suit was dropped after Bryant's acquittal.

From Arkansas Online (articles on the civil suit, the start of the trial, and after the jury acquitted) and 40/29 News

US: Man using laser on gun to threaten, rob victims

An robber has used a Glock-type pistol with a red laser aiming device to rob residents in two Georgia counties.

On three occasions between August 11 and September 2 2019, a man wearing a ski mask aimed the red laser at victims. On one occasion, he shot twice into the air and shouted "You think this is a game? I'm a real killer out here, I'll do this."

Police are looking for the suspect.

From 11 Alive

Hong Kong, China: UPDATED - Widespread use of laser pointers during protests

Handheld lasers are being used by protesters in Hong Kong against police officers, police buildings, and surveillance cameras.

Protests against increased Chinese control of Hong Kong began in March and April 2019. On June 21, lasers were aimed at police officers' eyes.

The use of lasers increased dramatically after the August 6 2019, arrest of 20-year-old Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong for having 10 laser pointers. (According to the South China Morning Post, laser pointers are readily available for less than HK $100 [USD $13].) Fong claimed he purchased them for stargazing. Persons around him chanted "release him" but police arrested him for "possession of offensive weapons.”

Police said that laser pointers are not prohibited in Hong Kong, but if they are used in an attack or are intended for use in an attack, then they are considered offensive weapons. During an August 7 2019 press conference, Li Kwai-wah, Superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said “…many of our colleagues have been injured by these items. And sensors in some of our video cameras were damaged. So we strongly believe that these items, which are capable of hurting people and destroying things, are indeed ‘offensive weapons.’” Police then demonstrated how the blue beam from a pointer taken from Fong could cause black ink on a newspaper to begin smoking at a range of about 20 inches.

Fong’s arrest set off demonstrations and a rally to demand his release. Critics of the police arrest said Fong’s laser pointers were legal unless they were actually being used to attack. The protests were marked by widespread use of laser pointers. At one point, a protester held up a newspaper and dozens of lasers were shined on it, without affecting the paper. (This was to show how laser beams as used in demonstrations — at distances much longer than 20 inches and handheld onto uncooperative targets — would not have the same effect as holding a beam steady on an unmoving target at close range.)


Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0


Protesters also aimed their laser pointers at the dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum, creating a "laser show" that may have been a takeoff on the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show around Hong Kong's harbor.


Protesters at the Hong Kong Science Museum. Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0


Hong Kong
Symphony of Lights laser show, presented nightly at 8 pm by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.


According to Wikipedia, during the laser pointer protest "some chanted slogans like 'laser pointer revolution' and joked 'Is the building on fire yet?' They hoped to show support to Fong and voice condemnation of his arrest by police, and to show that laser pointers are neither offensive weapons nor effective enough to cause a fire." A writer tweeted that the mood was festive: "This is the joyous, comedic side of [the protests] I’ve been missing amid the miasma of tear gas. Tonight was something we all needed: no tears, no blood, just laughter, song, and dance.”

Fong was released on August 8 2019, after being detained for two days.

Use of laser pointers continued in subsequent protests. For example, on August 10 a female flight attendant, Kwok Lai-fan, 28, was arrested for assaulting a police officer using a laser pointer.

On August 13, during demonstrations that closed Hong Kong airport, a person was beaten by protesters. According to Global Times, "the rioters began assaulting him by cuffing his hands behind his back, splashing water on his head and pointing laser beams into his face. He was denied medical help for hours until being rescued at around 10:40pm by Hong Kong police."

On August 14, lasers were aimed at a police station in the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. Police responded by firing tear gas to disperse the group.

On November 7, a 16-year-old boy was the first person convicted of possessing a laser pointer at the protests. During the trial, an expert testified that a laser pointer could injure eyes depending on the distance to the victim and the length of time the laser was in the victim's eyes. The judge said the boy's use of the pointer "was meant to harm the eyes of police officers, causing them discomfort." He ruled the pointer was not inherently an offensive weapon, but could become one depending on the circumstances and intent. On or around November 26, the unnamed teen was sentenced to attend a rehabilitation center where he will serve a short custodial sentence and receive work training and counseling.


For more photos and information, see the page "Laser use during protests"

From Vice News (Aug. 8 2019 story about "All-Night Laser Party"), South China Morning Post (Aug. 7 story, "Hongkongers rally to demand release of student arrested over possession of laser pens"; Aug. 8 story, "Laser pointer as 'weapon', explained"; Aug. 12 story, Flight attendant, audio technician and security guard among those arrested during another weekend of Hong Kong protests; Nov. 7 story "Boy, 16, is first to be convicted of possessing laser pointer at Hong Kong protests"), CBC News (Aug. 11 story, "Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers to deter police, scramble facial recognition"), Infosurhoy (Aug. 13 story, "Hong Kong protesters gather for 'laser show' rally"), Washington Post (Aug. 14 story, "After airport mayhem, Hong Kong protesters face tipping point in battle for hearts and minds"), Global Times (Aug. 14 story, "Netizens furious over rioters' assault of mainland passenger at HK airport"), Wikipedia article on "2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests" accessed August 14 2019, Hong Kong Free Press (Nov. 26 story, "Hong Kong court sends 16-year-old to rehab for carrying laser pointer, hiking pole and modified umbrella at demo")

UPDATES

On May 20 2020, the 16-year-old boy mentioned above (Nov. 7 2019) lost his appeal. The judge concluded the lower court was correct to characterize his carrying a laser pointer as an "offensive weapon" under Hong Kong law.

On July 23 2020, a man was
sentenced to 100 hours of community service for aiming laser beams at a police station near his house. The beams were not related to the protests; we are reporting it here since he was originally charged with violating a Hong Kong law stating that lasers are offensive weapons.

On July 24 2020, a man was
acquitted of a charge of possessing offensive weapons including a baton and a laser pointer.

US: Student suspended 10 days, faced possible expulsion for laser pointer use in school

Quinn Mulcahy, a 6th-grade student playing with a laser pointer in a school hallway on May 25 2019, was suspended for two weeks and faced possible expulsion, despite his possession and use apparently being legal.

The Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ “Code of Student Conduct” prohibits weapons in school. It specifically addresses pointers: “When a laser pen is used to threaten, intimidate or injure, it is considered a weapon.”

The boy’s father, Paul Mulcahy, told LaserPointerSafety.com that his son only aimed a legal, low-powered laser pointer at lockers and the wall in Landstown Middle School. He said it was never used in an aggressive or potentially harmful manner. Mulcahy's account was not disputed by the school.

Mulcahy wrote “no kid should be suspended or expelled for having a cat toy at school…. A ‘spork’ from the cafeteria if used to threaten, intimidate or injure would be a more likely weapon than a 2 mW laser pointer.”

During an initial meeting on May 30, principal John Parkman told Mulcahy he was instructed to use a “Discipline Guidelines” document not available to parents, students or the public. The principal did email the father a page from the Discipline Guidelines about laser pointers which seemed to restate the Code of Conduct language. (The VBCPS Office of Student Leadership confirmed on June 11 that the Discipline Guidelines are "administration-only.")

At a second meeting on June 2, the principal said the VBCPS Office of Student Leadership decided the infraction was “Inappropriate Property” and there would be no further punishment or action beyond the two-week suspension that had already occurred.

The Code of Student Conduct defines inappropriate property as follows: “The unauthorized possession of use of any type of personal property, which disrupts the educational process, is prohibited. Specifically prohibited are electronic devices when they are not authorized or being used for academic purposes (including cell phones), lighters and other items deemed inappropriate….”

In the Discipline Guidelines, the recommended penalty for Inappropriate Property depends on the property. One option is a verbal warning or reprimand called “Level 1.” The penalty for the boy turned out to be Level 6, suspension 6-10 days. As stated above, Mulcahy had been told that expulsion was also possible. Expulsion is "Level 8," the highest punishment level.

On June 9, the school returned the laser pointer to Mulcahy.

Mulcahy says he has retained a lawyer and may take action against the principal and/or school board.
Click to read more...

US: Police cars in Vienna, Va. hit multiple times by laser pointer

A report from the Vienna, Virginia police department describes multiple laser illuminations:

On May 2 2019, around 8:40 pm, "an officer was driving northbound on Nutley Street when his vehicle was struck multiple times with a green laser pointer. A Fairfax County Police Officer also advised his vehicles had been struck by the laser pointer that night. A similar incident happened to another officer a few weeks before this incident."

From Tysons Reporter

Australia: NSW woman convicted of using a laser pointer in public, plus one other charge

A woman in Dubbo, New South Wales, was convicted May 6 2019 of using a laser pointer in a public place, as well as impersonating a police officer.

On January 14 2019, Danielle Therese Emery, 49, was aiming a blue laser pointer into the sky. When police investigated, they found a car with a light bar with red and blue LED lights. Emery said she used the bar only to scare friends.

Emery sent the court a "heartfelt letter of admission and regret," and the court accepted that she was "probably not aware of the seriousness of the conduct in question."

Emery was sentenced with a community corrections order of 12 months. The standard conditions for such an order are "the offender must not commit any offence and must appear before the court if called upon during the term of the order." Additional conditions may be applied but were not mentioned in the news story about Emery.

From the Daily Liberal

Switzerland: Trams canceled after series of laser attacks on drivers

A tram line operating between Basil, Switzerland and St-Louis, France has shut down night operations, after numerous attacks from the France side with stones and laser pointers.

There is no apparent reason for the attacks. Laser pointers were used "on many occasions". Security guards were on call in France, but were unable to stop the attacks.

Drivers refused to go to St-Louis because of the attacks. The shutdown came on May 2 2019 after a female tram driver was illuminated with a laser pointer, and went for medical treatment.

From The Local and (in German) Basler Zeitung

Canada: Laser pointer harassment ends with machete, bat assault

On August 3 2018, two cars full of young adults were allegedly shining a laser beam into a homeless camp known as Discontent City, in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo. Two residents of the tent city tried to stop the cars from leaving, made verbal threats, and attacked the vehicles with machetes and a baseball bat.

The men were arrested in September 2018 and were arraigned April 16 2019. Both were charged with assault with a weapon, and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose. One of the men was also charged with a breach of undertaking or recognizance. Trial was set for June 5 2019.

No charges were levied against those involved with the laser pointer harassment.

From the Nanaimo News Bulletin (arraignment story and original story)

India: "Laser" aimed at Rahul Gandhi is from lens flare

Video taken in early April 2019 of Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi being interviewed outdoors in a crowd of media shows a green dot occasionally appearing on his head.

Congress leaders said the dot was from a laser, possibly mounted on a sniper gun. In a letter sent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, they wrote "…A (green) laser was pointed at [Gandhi's] head, intermittently on at least seven separate occasions in a short period; including twice at his temple on the right side of the head…. A perusal of the video by various persons including former security personnel leads to a prima facie conclusion that this laser could emanate from a potential weapon such as a sniper gun."

The Ministry of Home Affairs countered that the light came from a cameraman's mobile phone. A MHA spokesperson said "The green light shown in the clipping was found to be that of a mobile phone used by the AICC [All India Congress Committee] photographer, who was videographing the impromptu press interaction of Shri Rahul Gandhi near the collectorate at Amethi. Director (SPG [Special Protection Group]) has also informed MHA that this position was conveyed to the personal staff of Shri Rahul Gandhi."


Still frame from 15 seconds into the interview video clip, with a green dot on Rahul Gandhi's head circled. The entire YouTube video can be seen
here.


Congress Party leaders were especially concerned about security since Rahul Gandhi's grandmother and father, both former prime ministers of India, were both assassinated.

From Business Today and The Hindu

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM:

We are not aware of any mobile phones that come with green laser pointers. There is a iPhone accessory called iPin that fits into the audio jack, but this emits a low-power red beam.

The green dot only appears when there is a bright sun reflection in the camera lens. In the still frame above, a microphone logo cover is reflecting into the lens, at exactly the time the green dot appears. Here is another still frame with the same effect, from about 1:34 into the video clip. Once again, the dot corresponds with a bright reflection from the microphone logo cover.



The green dot, therefore seems to be caused by lens flare — internal reflections inside the camera lens. The camera sensor sees the lens flare dot, but there would be no dot "outside" in the real world or on Rahul Gandhi.

This may be what the MHA meant by "the light … was found to be that of a mobile phone," e.g. that the dot was internal to the phone's lens.

This is the second video we have seen from India where it was claimed lasers were being used, but the explanation turned out to be lens flare. The first case involved alleged laser harassment of an elephant.

UK: 68 attacks on West Yorkshire firefighters in 9 months; 2 of these involved lasers

Between April and December 2018, there were 68 attacks on West Yorkshire firefighters, according to a February 2019 report by the West Yorkshire Fire Authority.

In some cases, rocks or other objects were thrown at the firefighters or their equipment. In other cases, firefighters were verbally abused.

In two of the 68 cases, lasers were involved:

  • On 30 September 2018, at 1837 hours whilst attending a fire in the open at Lonsdale Street, Bradford a group of youths threw fireworks onto the fire, verbally abused the crews and shone laser pens into their eyes.
  • On 27th May 2018 at 2310 hours a laser pen was pointed at crews whilst they responded to an incident on The Crescent, Ravensthorpe. The occupier also became abusive and admitted causing the fire.

The complete list of 68 attacks was published in the Telegraph and Argus on February 16 2019.

US: Laser aimed from Mexico, across border, at Texas police officers

Two police officers from Roma, Texas (a small city along the Rio Grande river, and a port of entry from Mexico) had lasers aimed at their eyes while on patrol in February 2019. One officer had medical attention and treatment and then returned to duty.

An assistant chief of police, Francisco Garcia, said other officers from other agencies had also had lasers aimed at them in the past 30-45 days. He said it never happened before with direct hits in the eyes that caused damage.

Garcia said "This is just one of the many tactics the cartel and the criminal organizations will use to distract officers and get us away from a certain area to start illegally crossing contraband, drugs, people, everything, they cross."

He also noted concerns over whether the laser was stand-alone such as a pointer, or whether it is mounted on a weapon.

From ValleyCentral.com and KRGV.com

New Zealand: Man aimed laser into two police officers' eyes

A New Zealand man aimed a laser pointer at police officers who were conducting a bail check on June 3 2018. When the officers arrived, Niki John Gamble-Mackesy, 23, deliberately aimed a green "high-powered" laser pointer [likely over the 1 milliwatt New Zealand limit] directly into the officers' eyes.

They felt "immediate discomfort and a burning sensation in their eyes" according to the police report. One of the officers had pain and headaches for the next two days, and was seen by an optometrist. There was no permanent injury to either officer.

Gamble-Mackesy was sentenced in Hamilton District Court on January 30 2019 to four years, three months in jail, and was also ordered not to drive for two years. Charges against him included injuring with intent to injure, threatening to kill, obstructing the course of justice, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police, and two charges of committing an act of criminal nuisance. It was not clear how much of his jail term, and how many of the charges, directly related to his laser attack on the police officers, and how many related to additional criminal actions he had taken such as strangling his domestic partner on May 26 2018, and attacking her again on June 8.

From Stuff.co.nz

UPDATED January 20 2020: The judge's sentencing instructions listed the number of months of imprisonment for various charges:

1) Attempting to pervert the course of justice, 51 months (4 years, 3 months)
2) Disqualified driving, nine months
3) Dangerous driving, two months
4) Failing to stop, six months
5) Injuring with intent to injure, nine months
6) Criminal nuisance (shining a laser at police officers), nine months
7) Threatening to kill, nine months
8) Willfully attempting to pervert the course of justice (separate from #1), nine months.

The prison terms were to be served concurrently, not consecutively, for a total of 51 months of imprisonment.

The above helps show how the judge weighed the relative seriousness of the laser charge, compared with the other charges.

Thank you to Yung Chun-fai for providing the text of the sentencing report.

Japan: Man arrested for aiming laser at bus driver in road rage act

Tokyo police in late January 2019 arrested a man for pointing a laser beam at the driver of a city bus last year. The man reportedly told police he got angry because the bus had cut in front of his car.

Police say the 38-year-old man aimed a laser pointer at the driver when he pulled alongside the bus that parked at a stop in Meguro Ward during July 2018. He was arrested for suspicion of assaulting the driver and obstructing public services.

The bus driver was unharmed but he felt that something was wrong with his eyes. He continued driving to the next stop before another driver took over.

The man left the scene at the time. But police identified him with security camera footage after receiving a report.

The man reportedly admitted to the charges.

Many similar incidents have been reported across Japan in recent years.

From NHK World-Japan

US: UPDATED - NFL quarterback targeted by laser pointer during game; fan eventually found and fined $500

National Football League quarterback Tom Brady was targeted by a green laser beam during a NFL playoff game on January 20 2019. The beam was not noticed at the time, but a reporter saw it in a video playback.



KMBC reporter William Joy highlighted the green laser beam, seen here on the center of Tom Brady's helmet. The laser appeared to be around 4 inches wide, and danced on the quarterback's upper body — it was not held steady. Video by Turner Twyman.

According to Joy, the beam was on Brady's eyes and helmet at least three times during the game: "…once right after the muffed Julian Edelman punt call was overturned when Patriots retook possession, once on a completion to Chris Hogan, and once on a deep ball to Rob Gronkowski."

The NFL's security department was looking into the incident. As of January 23 2019, Kansas City police have not received a complaint but say they will investigate if a complaint is filed.

From the Washington Post, Boston Globe, musketfire.com and many other news sources. Sports Illustrated has an especially detailed look at the safety and legal issues around laser pointer misuse at NFL games. Thanks to Doug McCullough for bringing this to our attention.

COMMENTARY BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM: Based on the brightness and size of the beam in the videos, it is highly unlikely that this had enough irradiance (power density) to cause harm to any person's eyes.

Light from a laser pointer can harm human eyes at close ranges; within a few yards or meters. But at the distances involved, from a person in the stands to a player on the field, light from a handheld laser pointer would spread out (as the video shows) and would not be steady enough to allow dangerous heat to build up in the eye. This goes for both visible green light, and any non-visible infrared light (some poorly-constructed green laser pointers also emit non-visible infrared light).

The worst effect would be glare or brief flashblindness, like when a camera flash goes off close to a person's face. Since Brady did not seem to notice, and others — national sportscasters and the two teams involved — also did not notice anything unusual at the time, the laser targeting did not seem to affect the outcome of the play or of the game.

LaserPointerSafety.com has more stories about lasers misused during sporting events.

UPDATED February 3 2019: ESPN reported that Kansas City Chiefs officials, using videotape and eyewitnesses, identified the person who aimed a laser at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The person has been banned for life from the Chiefs' stadium. The officials have asked the Kansas City district attorney to bring the strongest possible charges against the person, to act as a deterrent.

ESPN also reported that "…members of the military have reached out to Brady to inform him that the lasers shined near his face could cause irreversible eye damage."

From ESPN and many subsequent sources such as the Boston Herald and CBS Sports

UPDATED April 11 2019: Dwyan Morgan, 64, was identified as the man who aimed a laser at Tom Brady during the American Football Conference championship game on January 20 2019. He was cited with one count of disturbing the peace; the penalty is up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Morgan will appear in Jackson County Municipal Court on July 17.

According to Heavy.com, Morgan is an electrician from Lee's Summit, Missouri. The website also said that a younger male relative posted items on Facebook making light of the citation and Brady.


Dwyan Morgan


According to TMZ, "Sources connected to Morgan tell us ... his intention was never to hurt anyone, he was just trying to have fun and didn't expect things to blow up the way they did. We're also told Morgan was drinking before the laser incident...." TMZ also reported that "One source close to the Chiefs fan says he feels bad for embarrassing Chiefs Nation, but has no plans to apologize to the Patriots. In fact, we're told he still hates the Pats and Tom Brady ... passionately and will continue to root against them -- just not from Arrowhead [Stadium], because he's been banned."

From the
Boston Herald, Heavy.com, TMZ, and a press release from the Jackson County Prosecutor

UPDATED May 13 2019: Dwyan Morgan told Inside Edition he did not intend to injure Tom Brady. Morgan said he was intoxicated and wanted to distract the quarterback. He said "I shouldn't have done it" but also said he is not gong to apologize to Brady or the Patriots football team. From Inside Edition


Dwyan Morgan recreates his aiming a laser pointer at Tom Brady, for the TV show Inside Edition



Dwyan Morgan and his 23-year-old son Colton both appear to be amused by Dwyan getting a misdemeanor citation for "Disturbing the peace by shining a laser pointer in the direction of Tom Brady during a football game."


UPDATED July 18 2019: On July 17 2019 Dwyan Morgan pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. He was fined $500. He was not given any jail time. From TMZ Sports and the Associated Press via KSNT.com

Scotland: Youths shine green laser at bus driver eyes

Stagecoach West Scotland bus lines tweeted that youths near Drongan had shined "a green laser in drivers eyes", as well as setting up barriers to bus routes in Drongan, which is located in East Ayrshire.

In the October 25 2018 tweet, the company also said that "…our drivers have been advised if it happens again not to operate via Drongan."

Due to the lack of a possessive apostrophe, it was unclear whether one driver had been attacked, or if this occurred to multiple drivers.

A local paper contacted the company for more information, but they "declined to comment further." It is not known if the laser caused any eye effects or injuries.

From the Cumnock Chronicle

Ukraine: Soldier has severe eye injury allegedly from Russian-backed forces

A Ukrainian border guard "had the functionality of his right eye reduced by 80 percent" after seeing a yellow flash through binoculars as he was observing Russian-backed forces.

The injury occurred at approximately 5 pm local time on October 1 2018.

Ophthalmologists examined the guard's eye and diagnosed a laser-induced retinal injury.

According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, this was the seventh case of Russian-led forces using blinding lasers against Ukrainian troops since 2014. At least five of these injuries were not permanent: "all of the [5] affected troops have had their eyesight almost fully restored."

From the Kyiv Post, October 2 2018. An earlier Kyiv Post story March 29 2018 has a few additional details about earlier attacks. LaserPointerSafety.com also reprinted a May 28 2018 Kyiv Post story on the topic.

China: Laser pointers "regularly" harm children's eyes

An August 29 2018 story from Shanghai Daily is headlined "Laser pointers regularly harm children's eyes: doctors"

It notes that an 8-year-old boy playing with a laser pointer suffered irreversible retinal damage to his left eye.

The story says "such cases are not rare" at the Shanghai Xinshijie Eye Hospital.

It also says that a "study conducted by the national quality authority found 29.8 percent of children have had access to laser products, laser pointers being the most common." It is not known what other, non-pointer, laser products were included in the study.

According to the story, the "government has issued a warning to alert parents not to buy laser pointers as toys for their children, but they are still widely available in local stationery stores. Most laser pointers don’t come with safety alerts to warn of the dangers present." The story did not say whether this was a national, provincial or local government warning.

From Shine News (Shanghai Daily)

US: Man crushed, killed in industrial laser cutting machine

A 26-year-old man died after being crushed in an industrial laser cutter on July 12 2018. The unnamed man became “caught between the laser and the loader that feeds sheets of metal into the laser to be cut”, according to an employee of Industrial Metal Products in Sharon, Mass.

He was trapped for about an hour and was conscious during the rescue. He died after being transported by ambulance to a hospital.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate the death.

From Boston 25 News

UK: Green laser "attack" on lifeboat; mission proceeds

A Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat crew was illuminated by green laser light as they searched for a missing person on July 9 2018 near Redcar, North Yorkshire.

The RNLI launching authority said “This was an appalling, reckless attack on our crew. They were navigating in near total darkness. The laser could have permanently damaged any of the crew’s vision had it shone directly into their eyes. Not only could it have done serious harm to our volunteers, it might well have jeopardized the rescue mission and put other lives at risk.”

None of the crew were harmed. The lifeboat continued its search; the missing person was eventually found by a police helicopter.

From TeessideLive

US: Indianapolis teen injured by laser pointer five years ago shares story

In 2013, 12-year-old Ross Vanderpool and a friend were playing with a laser pointer when Vanderpool injured his eye. The incident happened in Indianapolis although the laser was obtained from Italy (and had no informational labeling).

Vanderpool told his story in June 2018, to try to warn others to be careful about laser pointers. He said “We watched Star Wars and they had laser guns so we really didn’t know how dangerous it was.”

While he still has unspecified damage, treatment helped to repair much of the damage.

According to a news story, “the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and the Indiana State Medical Association are working on a resolution to deal with the laser pointer issue. They hope to release their findings by the end of September [2018].”

From RTV6 The Indy Channel

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Star Wars depicts lasers as weapons — not as toys. People die or are severely injured by the laser blasters and laser-like lightsabers. It is not clear how someone who watches Star Wars would not understand that lasers are dangerous — at least, as used in Star Wars.

Australia: Young teen cautioned after misusing laser pointer at a basketball game

From Tasmania Police:

“As a result of enquiries into the use of a laser pointer at the Ulverstone Basketball Stadium during the Northwest Thunder game Saturday 16 June 2018, a 13 year old youth has been cautioned under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act.

“This incident was reported to police by club representatives after a formal complaint was lodged with the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) on Monday. No further action will be taken.

“Members of the public are reminded that it is an offence to possess, carry or use a laser pointer in a public place without a lawful excuse.”


As reported in ForeignAffairs.co.nz and Mirage News

Greece: 9-year-old "repeatedly gazing" into laser causes hole in his eye

A 9-year-old boy in Greece suffered serious, permanent damage to his left eye, after “repeatedly gazing” into a green beam from a laser pointer. (Note: This is not unknown. As of June 21 2018, LaserPointerSafety.com has reported on around 15 other cases of self-inflicted eye injuries.)

The most serious injury that the boy caused was a large hole in his macula, shown with the yellow arrows.

Pic 2018-06-21 at 8.59.23 PM

Two other areas of injury were not immediately visible in a funduscopic exam of the retina (photo A, using ordinary white light) but were clearly visible using fundus autofluorescence imaging (blue arrows in photo B, using a narrow wavelength of light). The round area to the left in both photos is the optic disc, a natural feature where the optic nerve begins — it is not laser damage.

The macula is where central vision occurs. The fact that the injury occurred in the macula indicates that the boy looked directly into the laser light with his left eye. Damage to the macula is serious as this area provides high resolution, color vision in the center of the visual field.

The injury reduced the boy’s vision to 20/100 in the injured left eye; his right eye remained at 20/20. The boy’s ophthalmologists felt the hole was too large and too much time had passed since the injury for surgery. (The doctors suspected that the boy had injured his eye at least a year earlier.) Because surgery might make things worse, causing a cataract without improving the macula, they “favored conservative management.”

There was no improvement in vision even 1 1/2 years after the injury was first presented to the ophthalmologists.

The power of the laser pointer, and other details of the incident, were not described in the one-paragraph report published June 21 2018. One of the authors told CNN the boy’s father “had bought the laser as a toy from a street merchant.”

From the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2018; 378:2420, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1714488) Authors: Sofia Androudi, M.D., Ph.D., and Eleni Papageorgiou, M.D., Ph.D. Additional reporting by CNN. This story was picked up by many other news sites around the world.

Taiwan: 10-year-old playing with laser, trying to avoid eye, but still gets retinal damage

A 10-year-old Taiwanese boy playing with a laser pointer suffered retinal damage, according to a June 13 2018 news story.

The boy was playing with a classmate, trying to dodge the beam. At some point it hit the boy’s left eye. He felt a stinging sensation and became light sensitive.

During a routine eye exam two weeks later, a retinal burn was seen. The boy underwent photocoagulation treatment and will need regular follow-up exams to monitor the eye’s healing, but he did not suffer any vision loss, said Wu Pei-chang, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung (third-largest city in Taiwan).

From the Taipei Times

US: California man aims laser at motorists and sheriff's helicopter

A man aimed a green laser beam at motorists on Interstate 15 in Victorville, California, as well as aiming multiple times at a San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

The California Highway Patrol received a number of calls from motorists who saw or were illuminated by the laser light.

James Gilbert Trujillo, 33, was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in the June 6 incident. He will appear in court June 11.

From the Victorville Daily Press and San Bernardino Sun. This news item was also filed under the Aviation incident news section.

US: Police officer playing with laser pointer on Taser forgets that Taser is armed; tases colleague

A police officer who was “horseplaying” with the laser pointer on a Taser, forgot that the weapon was armed and accidentally tased a colleague.

On March 27 2018, Officer Dan Sells of the Lafayette (Indiana) Police Department was in a hospital conference room for a debriefing, along with two other officers and a dispatcher. Sells and another officer disarmed their Taser stun guns and began shining the Taser’s laser pointer (used for aiming) at the dispatcher.

Sells became distracted for a few minutes. He then picked up the Taser, intending to continue the laser pointer horseplay. However he forgot he had armed the Taser. When he pulled the trigger to turn on the laser pointer, the Taser fired, sending the electric prongs into the dispatcher’s foot.

He received a five-day suspension for unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance, misuse of department equipment and misusing a weapon.

On May 30 2018 Sells agreed to a 10-day suspension for apparently unrelated charges (in a separate incident) of unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance, and violating evidence-gathering procedures.

From the Journal & Courier

China: Two students with macular burns from laser pointers

Two Chinese students have been treated for eye injuries caused by laser pointers.

In the first case, the macular area of a boy’s eyes were damaged so that he could not see an object at 10 cm. The damage was confirmed by retinal examination.

In the second case, a 15-year-old high school student also has burns on his macular area, from when a classmate aimed a laser pen at him. He could only see objects within 50 cm, and there were scars consistent with those left by clinical lasers.

Both cases were reported by Xie Airui, an eye specialist at the Ineye Hospital of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both cases occurred between September 2017 and May 2018.

According to a May 31 2018 news story, laser pens have become popular with some schoolchildren in Chengdu. Many stationery shops sell them for prices between USD $0.80 and $31.00. in 2014 the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine warned consumers about laser pointer hazards. “But no market supervisors have taken up the matter in a serious way, according to Xu Bin, a lawyer in Chengdu.”

From China Daily via Ecns.cn

Ukraine: Six soldiers said to be injured by Russian-backed laser weapons

The following material in blue is from the Kyiv Post, May 28 2018:

At least six Ukrainian servicemen deployed to the Donbas war zone have suffered serious eye damage from unidentified optical radiation devices used by Kremlin-backed militants on several occasions since 2016.

The military believes that the soldiers were likely targeted with blinding laser devices, which Russia brought to Donbas in order to test this new advanced technology in battlefield conditions. If independently confirmed, the usage of such weapons can be qualified as a war crime, according to international law.

Since the war’s outbreak in 2014, there have been at least three such incidents recorded by the State Border Service and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

On July 18, 2016, three Ukrainian border guards deployed to a forward checkpoint between the city of Maryinka just west of Russian-occupied Donetsk suffered severe eye injuries as they surveyed enemy territory in front of them through binoculars and monoculars.

Click to read more...

India: Laser pointer misuse in 2002 said to cause riots and close 600-year-old religious shrine

A May 1 2018 news story about a 600-year-old Indian shrine states that the shrine was closed in 2002 after a riot broke out, instigated in part by misuse of a laser pointer.

The shrine of Madhin Saheb was built in 1444 in Srinagar, a city in the Kashmir Valley. In the late 20th century, the shine was popular with locals and tourists. Sunni and Shia Muslims worshipped together inside the shrine. The article states:

The peace was, however, broken in 2002, after a rumour spread in Srinagar that some miracle had happened inside the shrine. The rumour spread like a wildfire and a number of people rushed to the shrine. Though there are different versions on the incident, the largely accepted one is that Shias claimed that the outer wall of the shrine had some blood spots on it and a “Shia flag was miraculously erected on the roof of the shrine, hence the entire monument belongs to them.”

“It was a mischief done by someone. The blood spots were actually a beam from a laser pointer, a trending device then used as a source of amusement,” says Ghulam Nabi, 62, who was among the hundreds of people present on the spot that day.

He says that soon after this act, riots broke out near the shrine and its adjoining areas leaving many people injured. “It was chaos all around. No one from either sect was ready to listen. It was only after tiresome efforts by police and civil administration that the situation was brought under control,” Nabi says. Following the incident, Department of Archives, Archeology & Museums sealed the shrine, and since then, entry to it is restricted.


The director of the Department of Archives was quoted as saying “Though there has been an improvement in the situation since the day it (shrine) was closed, we do not think that opening this shrine right now would be a reasonable decision. We respect the sentiments of people attached to the shrine, but we have to keep it shut till situation returns to normal. The monument will be opened one day. We see that happening soon, Insha-Allah.”

From the Kashmir Narrator

India: Laser pointers said to harass elephants

Amid a rash of captive elephants going wild in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala comes a claim that laser pointers have been used to provoke the pachyderms.

An April 12 2018 story says that although “[s]evere torture and unscientific handling” can cause problems, that laser pointers also may have been used recently by “a mysterious group with vested interests.”

According to the story, “There were complaints that light beams were shined continuously from a distance into the eyes of elephants paraded at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram and some other local temples in Thiruvalla and Pathanamthitta. It was alleged that the jumbos turned restive and violent after being blinded with the high-powered laser pointer.”

The story includes a 47-second video clip of an elephant refusing to get onto a truck, while a dot moves around on and near the elephant.

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

An analysis indicates that the moving dot is not from a laser, but is from lens flare — internal reflection in the camera lens of a bright light in the scene.

The screenshot below, from one second into the video, shows the dot circled in green, and a bright light circled in red.

elephant alleged laser Kerala India

As the video is played, the dot moves around. Its movements are correlated with the bright light. For example, when the elephant’s body blocks the light, the dot disappears. Because it is a reflection, it moves opposite to the light, and its movement also changes based on the tilt of the camera lens.

In addition, the dot appears yellow or white. This correlates with the light color. Yellow is very uncommon for laser pointers, while there are no “white” laser pointer beams. A green or red dot would indicate an actual laser.

While there may be other incidents of laser pointer misuse in Kerala, the moving dot in this particular video does not, in the view of LaserPointerSafety.com, show a laser dot or any actual (real-world) light on the elephant.

From Manorama Online

US: UPDATED - Laser pointer harassing San Diego families

An unknown person has been aiming a laser pointer at homes in the “upscale, affluent” Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego, Calif.

A January 25 2018 news report said one resident keeps a “laser log” of the incidents, which can go on for several minutes. The resident said it happened five times in the past two weeks.

Police have been involved in trying to find the perpetrator.

While the green laser light’s location can clearly be seen and photographed, the location is the common-area hallway of an apartment building. No specific person has been identified.

Pic 2018-01-26 at 2.15.24 PM squashed80pct
Pic 2018-01-26 at 2.18.57 PM squashed80pct

According to the news report, “[s]hining a laser into another person’s eyes in California is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.”

From 10news.com

UPDATED - March 27 2018: Blue-green light again was aimed into a Mission Hills home, on March 23 2018. It appears to be coming from the same apartment building as the January incidents. Footage shows homeowner Daniel Wang using a telescope to try to identify the specific location in the apartment building. (Note: A person should not use a telescope or binoculars to look in the direction of a laser, since the optics can focus the beam and make it more dangerous than looking at the beam with the naked eye.) From 10news.com.

India: UPDATED - 200+ students have eye problems after New Years Eve laser light show

Students at a laser show in India had symptoms of eye irritation. Below is a story from The News Minute about the show.

After the “read more” link are more stories, plus speculation that the cause might be ultraviolet light, or chemical irritation from fog or smoke.

NYE laser show leaves 200 students in Andhra with eye irritation

The children's eyes began watering and had turned red when they got up the next morning.

Around 40 students of a private school in Andhra Pradesh's Parvathipuram village in Vizianagaram district had to be given medical treatment, after their eyes began to swell on Monday morning [January 1 2018].

The 40 students, along with 200 others, began complaining of irritation and pain in their eyes, after they were reportedly exposed to lights and lasers during a show, as part of the school's New Year's Eve celebrations.

The children's eyes began watering, and had turned red when they got up the next morning.

As the children began complaining, worried parents staged a protest and demanded answers from the school.

Following this, doctors rushed to the school and administered first-aid, before assuring those who had gathered, that the kids would not lose eyesight.

“We prescribed eye drops and ointment for the affected children,” a doctor told the
Times of India.

Meanwhile, Vizianagaram district Collector Vivek Yadav was informed of the incident, and directed the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Parvathipuram, P Sudarsan Dora, to visit the school along with Mandal Educational Officer P Krishna Murthy.

Circle Inspector G Rambabu also visited the school along with the officials, and spoke to the children, to collect more details regarding the case. Further details are awaited.

Click the “read more” link to see additional updated stories, plus speculation on the possible cause.     Click to read more...

US: Lasers pointed at drivers at car "sideshows" in Oakland

Police helicopter footage taken in December 2017 shows spectators at an Oakland (Calif.) car “sideshow” aiming laser pointers at drivers. This is hazardous since the automotive stunts performed at sideshows include doughnuts (tight circles with spectators close by) and ghost riding (climbing out of the car while it is moving).

Laser sideshow Oakland 2
Screenshot from a California Highway Patrol video that shows laser pointers being aimed at drivers, at spectators, and at a police helicopter monitoring a sideshow.


A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer noted multiple hazards, from eye injury to blinding vehicle operators: “So, if a laser got in the eyes of a sideshow participant, it is going to cause temporary blindness, permanent eye damage. It could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle itself. If he loses control, it is going to hit multiple people at once and cause mass injuries…. The lasers could cause temporary blindness for the pilot, could cause the pilot to alter their course, and it could cause the helicopter to crash.”

During the same time period in December 2017, there was also a report of multiple laser strikes on airplanes landing at Oakland International Airport (story here).

From KRON TV and East Bay Times. See also this story about a man arrested at a January 2018 Oakland slideshow for aiming a laser at a CHP helicopter.

UK: Teen in Luton attacked by laser light; eyes injured

A teenager from Luton, about 30 miles northwest of London, was injured by two boys, between 12 and 14 years old, who aimed a laser pen into the teen’s eyes from a distance.

According to a news story, “the boy sustained damage to his eyes and required hospital treatment.” A police spokesperson called the injuries “serious.”

Police were asking for help in finding the perpetrators of the December 4 2017 incident

From Luton Today

Scotland: Laser pen aimed at lifeboat on training exercise

A lifeboat crew on a training exercise in the Cromarty Firth was illuminated by green laser light, possibly from a moving vehicle, on December 11 2017.

None of the seven crew members were reported to be injured or affected by the light.

According to a news story, “Last year the Port of Cromarty Firth also complained to police after laser pens were shone into the waters of the firth. One worker had to receive medical treatment when a pen was shone directly into his eyes.”

From the North Star News

Israel: Attacks on motorists include laser pointer aimed at driver

A “wave of Arab terror attacks” in Judea and Samaria included stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at vehicles, and a report of a driver having “a laser pointer being pointed at her face in an attempt to impair her ability to drive.”

The news account did not seem to indicate that the laser usage was more widespread or organized.

From Arutz Sheva Israel International News

US: Officer in car said to have burned cornea from "inadvertent" laser pointer incident

A police officer in College Place, Washington was driving when he was illuminated by a laser pointer. Officer Bill Kelly had a burning sensation in his left eye and went to St. Mary’s Hospital. He was “released with a small burn of his cornea.”

The incident happened on November 26 2017. A College Place resident later confessed to using the laser pointer. The 43-year-old woman said she “inadvertently” aimed the laser at the officer. Police said the laser was “Class III.”

The unnamed woman may be charged with unlawful discharge of a laser at a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty, a Class C felony which has a punishment of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

College Place Wa laser pointer class III
The laser pointer

College Place WA laser pointer label
Close-up of the laser pointer label


From MyColumbiaBasin.com.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Visible light travels through the clear cornea — it is not absorbed by corneal tissue. It is essentially impossible for a handheld laser’s visible light to be able to cause corneal damage to a moving target many yards away. While certain green lasers can also emit infrared light, it is extremely unlikely that the IR was strong enough to cause damage under the specified conditions. When corneal damage is seen after an unwanted laser pointer exposure, this is due to the person rubbing their eyes too vigorously. More information on evaluating laser injuries is here.