A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
US: 113 federal agents in Portland said to be injured by protesters' lasers; none were permanently blinded
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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
She was treated at a hospital for “extreme burning pain.” She recovered with no lasting damage.
The laser attack happened in Carlisle, Cumbria around September 13 2017. It was not clear from news reports whether the ambulance driver was delayed in reaching the patient, or whether another ambulance was sent.
From BBC News
On April 17 state police announced that Jonathan Edward Rayner was arrested and a laser pointer was retrieved. Rayner had been a passenger in another car on the highway. The 32-year-old man was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and with “assaulting-resisting-obstructing a police officer.” Both assault charges are felonies. The maximum penalty is four years in prison on the dangerous weapon charge, and 20 years in prison for assaulting a police officer.
Jonathan Edward Rayner
The incident happened on eastbound Interstate 94 in Wayne County at about 8 pm. The trooper was taken to a hospital “with vision problems and headache.” Later that day, state police tweeted “His vision has returned and he has been cleared. Other than a serious headache he should be back to work.”
From two tweets by Michigan State Police Metro Detroit, as initially reported in ClickOnDetroit.com. Announcement of the suspect’s name and the charges from the Detroit News, Fox 2 Detroit and the Morning Sun. Thanks to David Bothner for bringing this to our attention.
The officers had been searching at about 11 p.m. for a person who threatened someone with a gun. While the police did not find the person, during the search a laser dot was repeatedly aimed onto one of the officers.
A witness described how the laser “starts at the lower part of his torso and works his way up, as if somebody is zoning or eyeing in their weapon at this officer, and that’s exactly what this officer that saw this laser was thinking. He thinks somebody is pointing a laser at a target location on an officer to engage him and shoot him.”
According to a news report, “[t]he officers took cover and followed the laser more than a block away.” Officers confronted Jeffrey Klopotic at his home; the 45-year-old fought with the officers. They found Klopotic had a laser pointer. He was arrested and charged with resisting an officer, obstructing police, intention of directing a laser pointer at an officer, and disorderly conduct.
Because guns are often equipped with laser sights, police are worried whenever a laser dot appears on or near them. TV station WBAY purchased a $25 laser pointer and tested it side-by-side along with a laser gun sight. A former police captain they consulted could not tell the difference between the pointer’s dot and the gun sight’s dot.
A Green Bay police spokesman said “When you hear that eight officers are shot in nine days, yeah, it’s certainly going to get the hair on the back of your neck to stand up a little more. People have got to be mindful of what they’re doing, and the decision to do such a thing. It could have ended tragically.”
From WBAY; photo from Arrests.org.
UPDATED April 2 2018 - Jeffrey Klopotic contacted LaserPointerSafety.com in late March 2018. He stated that three of the officers who used excessive force during his arrest have resigned (not necessarily due to his particular case), and a fourth officer was recently disciplined for tasing a man three times “as he did to me.”
A February 16 2018 story in the Green Bay Press Gazette describes three officers who resigned in 2017, one “following an excessive-force case” and two “to avoid discipline for having harassed fellow officers in 2016.” In the excessive force case, officers “wrongly interpreted a man’s slow response to commands as ‘actively resisting’ arrest, and found that what officers concluded was an attempt to reach for a gun was actually the man’s attempt to keep his pants from falling down.”
Klopotic stated that he pleaded no contest “under pressure”. He provided documentation showing he had to pay $686 in a fine or court cost. He also said he is waiting for a police department investigation to conclude before filing a lawsuit about his arrest.
A green beam was repeatedly aimed at both of Porthcawl’s lifeboats during the rescue of the crew and the catamaran. The helmsman “was able to recover his vision and resume the operation soon after,” according to a news account.
South Wales police were called to the scene by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Porthcawl, but did not find the perpetrator. They are asking the public for any information.
From Wales Online