A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
An additional six counts of aggravated misdemeanor assault, related to the felony counts, can proceed since they were filed on time.
The protester is accused of aiming a laser at the eyes of several University of Iowa police officers during an August 31 2020 protest in Iowa City. The officers reported temporary vision loss, headaches and "other health problems."
To convict on the misdemeanor counts, prosecutors will have to show that the protester intended to inflict serious injury on the officers when he aimed a laser at them.
The 25-year-old protester was named Matthew Bruce at the time of the protests, and said he has since changed his name to Mate Farrakhan Muhammad.
From The Gazette and the Des Moines Register
The officer was wearing safety glasses and was not harmed.
A laser pointer was found on 19-year-old Amina T. Mussa McCaskill. She admitted aiming at the officer.
Amina T. Mussa McCaskill
She was charged on November 6 with one count of felony second-degree riot.
More than 600 people were arrested after protesters blocked the Interstate highway.
From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
US: Pennsylvania man charged with repeatedly assaulting police officers with a laser during protests
When approached to be arrested, the man tried to incite a crowd to assist him. He later gave false information to the police.
Pedro Junior Velasquez is charged with seven felonies and dix misdemeanors, including aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
Pedro Junior Velasquez
Bryan Michael Kelley
The following is from a news article issued by the Portland Police Bureau:
On September 3, 2020, Portland Police Bureau detectives arrested 36 year old Bryan Michael Kelley, and served a search warrant at his residence, during an investigation into criminal activity he was alleged to be involved in near City Hall, last week.
During the evening of August 25, 2020, a group of people gathered in Shemanski Park, in downtown Portland, and walked to City Hall. Within minutes of arriving, people within the group began committing crimes in and around City Hall.
Among those in the crowd that night was Mr. Kelley. Members of the Portland Police Bureau Rapid Response Team (RRT) responded to City Hall to restore order. At least one member of RRT realized that Mr. Kelley had repeatedly directed a laser into the RRT member's eyes, causing injury. Eventually, members of RRT were able to locate and arrest Mr. Kelley near Southwest 4th Avenue and Southwest Jefferson Street. He was found to be in possession of a laser (photo).
Silver laser device, next to phone to show scale. See this story for more information about this model of laser.
Click to read more...
Detectives later tested the laser by pointing it at a piece of cardboard, which caused the cardboard to burn. Such lasers can be purchased online and are usually accompanied by warnings about harm they can cause, especially to the eyes. https://youtu.be/dcR_xkpOuNQ
According to court documents, at approximately 10:00 p.m. on June 13, 2020, a civil disturbance was declared when a crowd gathered around the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. A Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officer watching the crowd from the roof of the Justice Center observed two individuals, one later identified as Reuland, allegedly standing in the middle of the street and repeatedly hitting several officers in the face with high-powered lasers.
The officer moved to a lower floor and was able to photograph Reuland. The officer kept track of Reuland as the crowd was dispersed. In the early morning hours of June 14, 2020, Reuland joined a group of individuals marching from the Justice Center to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s personal residence. Reuland was observed shining a laser at the Mayor’s residence and at other homes in the neighborhood. The officer who originally spotted Reuland with the laser, tracked his location until Reuland was contacted by other officers and taken into custody for assaulting a public safety officer. He was later released by state authorities.
On September 4, 2020, U.S. Marshals Service deputies arrested Reuland at his residence in northwest Portland.
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
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.
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")
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.
On July 9 in Philadelphia, CBSPhilly reported that a person was arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter after the protest. WHYY Newsworks said that a man was “briefly detained by officers after he used a powerful flashlight to point at the helicopter overhead. Because no illegal laser-pointers were used, he was sent away with a citation for disorderly conduct….” It is not known if these two reports referred to the same incident.
A Google search as of July 11 did not turn up any additional instances where lasers were used in or around protests.
The 5-hour confrontation began the evening of March 17 2012. St. Patrick’s Day parties “spilled into the street” in an area near Fanshawe College. The crowd grew to about 1,000 people. A brush fire was started, and a CTV news truck was set on fire. To slow fire crews, some persons threw beer bottles, bricks, wooden planks, tires, rim and other debris. In addition, said London’s police chief, “members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers’ eyes to try to disrupt our response.” A spectator said that the crowd, made up primarily of students, “wanted to egg on the police.”
A person aims a laser during the London, Ontario riot. From a photo gallery at The Star.
From the Toronto Sun. This is possibly the same laser beam; note glow from fire to the left, behind the officers.
The full extent of the laser misuse is not known. While the police chief indicated there were multiple lasers involved, the National Post said “One rioter attempted to blind the officers with a high-powered green laser.” Media reviewed by LaserPointerSafety.com found a single laser being used in each photo or video. Although some bystanders and police suffered minor injuries from thrown objects during the rioting, there were no reports of laser-caused eye effects or injuries. Eleven persons were arrested at the scene; charges included assaulting police. It is not known if any laser assault charges were brought.
Similar riots occurred in the same area of Fleming Drive in 2007 and 2009, blamed on a high concentration of alcohol-fueled Fanshawe students. The 2012 riot is expected to cost London $100,000 in manpower and repair costs.
From CBC News, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, The Star, and the National Post. Thanks to Mathieu Gauthier for helping bring this to our attention.
UPDATED, April 20 2012: Thirty-eight people are facing a total of 85 charges in the incident, thus far. Brian Nuccitelli, 18, faces three charges including two relating to misuse of a laser pointer: “possessing a weapon dangerous to public peace” and “assaulting a police officer with a weapon”. Police said the pointer was aimed at officers’ faces. They said “one officer was injured and continues to receive medical attention as the result of the laser being directed at his eyes.” In addition to Nuccitelli, police are also looking for another person who aimed a laser at officers. From lfpress.com