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Coast Guard seeks information after laser strike hits Portland boatcrew
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Coast Guard is seeking information from the public in locating a suspect or suspects who pointed a green laser light at the cabin of a Station Portland boatcrew conducting underway operations Tuesday night.
Coast Guard crews from Station Portland have been struck with lasers several times in the past six months.
The latest laser strike occurred around 10 p.m. and reportedly came from a building on the southern shore of the Willamette River west of the Fremont Bridge.
The crew aboard the 29-foot Response Boat-Small immediately conducted an on-scene health assessment after the strike and then safely transited back to base. Laser pointers can cause danger to Coast Guard boatcrews due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision.
"Laser incidents are incredibly dangerous, put the safety of our boatcrews in jeopardy and degrade our ability to navigate and respond to emergencies," said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, enforcement chief, Sector Columbia River. "We ask the public to understand the dangers associated with playing with lasers and how they disrupt our crews from responding to mariners in distress."
Causing the beam of a laser pointer to strike a vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States is a felony crime under 46 U.S. Code Section 70014.
Coast Guard Investigative Service agents are working to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact investigators via: https://www.p3tips.com/tipform.aspx?ID=878#
A story in the Takoma News Tribune discusses the result of the health assessment: "The crew was evaluated on scene, but a spokesperson for Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest told McClatchy News in a phone interview that it cannot release the crew’s medical information."
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.
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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.
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.
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Cuccinelli demonstrated what he called a "commercial grade" laser by aiming it into his hand and saying it got hot within a second or two. He said such a laser could be purchased on Amazon.com.
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."
Some news sources and commentators stated flatly that the officers are permanently blind. Lost or ignored was the fact that there was only one official statement on the prognosis ("they currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight").
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 November 9 2020, LaserPointerSafety,com is aware of two cases against individuals, one from June 2020 and one from August 2020.]
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.