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 relevant paragraph states: "D.C. police said Monday [Jan. 11] that one District officer remained hospitalized. They described many of the injuries as sprains and bruised arms and legs, but many others appear far more serious and caused by repeated blows from sticks, poles and clubs and laser pointers shined into officers’ eyes."
From the Washington Post
COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
Besides this one reference, LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any other account or claim of laser pointer misuse during the Capitol attack.
There are videos of a rioter aiming a bright handheld spotlight at officers. We do not know if these are Capitol Police, or D.C. police called in to assist.
In the top screenshot, it appears an officer at the right side of the doorway is aiming a similar spotlight out towards the rioters. At bottom center is the only protester we have found with a light.
The bottom screenshot, from a video by Brendan Gutenschwager (@bgonthescene - Twitter) shows the spotlight. Despite the bright yellow sticker, after extensive searching we have not been able to find the model of the spotlight. Here is one that is similar:
It is not known if the rioter's spotlight was misidentified as a laser pointer, or whether there were laser pointers used elsewhere.
In extensive viewing of footage taken inside and outside the Capitol during the event, we have not been able to spot any laser light or other signs of pointer usage.
The riot took place during daylight hours, when laser pointers typically are not used during protests. There was a 6 pm curfew, enforced by D.C. police and other officers. It may be that pointers were used at dusk or after sunset which was at 5:02 pm that day.
In conclusion, if there was any laser pointer misuse at during the U.S. Capitol riot, it appears to be minor or inconsequential (or non-existent) compared with misuse at U.S. protests earlier in the summer.
For more information: We have listings of LaserPointerSafety.com stories tagged "protester", "riots", and "arrests at protest." We also have a page about Laser use during protests.
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
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
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.
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
One hundred fifty people called for abolition of the university police department. "This Halloween protest was more aggressive than those by previous Northwestern protest groups. According to information from City Manager Erika Storlie, members of the group came with umbrellas, fireworks, spray-paint cans and laser pointers. Some threw rocks or lit fireworks in the direction of police officers; others shined the laser pointers in the eyes of the officers." From a November 1 2020 story in the Evanston RoundTable.
A laser was pointed at a U.S. Park Police helicopter during protests in front of the Fourth District police station. Also, Washington, DC police said "one of their officers was injured when a protester shone a laser in his eyes" on October 28. From a November 1 2020 story from FOX5.
San Diego, California
38-year-old Stephen Glenn McLeod aimed a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter multiple times, during a protest on August 28 2020. He was arraigned October 20 on a federal felony charge which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. His next court date is November 20. From an October 20 2020 story from NBC San Diego.
San Diego, California
24-year-old Rudy Alvarez was charged with aiming a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter during a large demonstration in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, on June 6 2020. The crew said the light impeded their ability to safety operate the helicopter. From a June 10 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California.
Beginning in June 2020, there were many protests in Portland with significant use of lasers. A general internet search will find these. LaserPointerSafety.com has focused on stories about alleged eye injuries (most were temporary flashblindness; none were permanent) and about arrests. Searching for the tag Portland will find the LaserPointerSafety.com stories.
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.
Click to read more...
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
The protests marked the 44th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship.
Reuters photo from Telesur
The attacks happened at least three times on different routes in the West Bank.
An earlier report, from November 5 2014, describes an attack:
The [Jewish] driver reports that an Arab motorist came up next to his car, and used a laser to try and blind him and cause him to lose control of the vehicle.
"He came up next to me and aimed the laser at my face for several long seconds," the driver told Arutz Sheva.
"He tried to divert my view from the road so that I would crash. By a miracle I managed to escape...it's clear that he tried to kill me," reported the driver.
From the Algemeiner (2015) and Arutz Sheva
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.
A France 24 reporter said “dozens” of demonstrators in a crowd of 10,000 were aiming lasers at windows in the presidential palace, as part of efforts to “make sure Morsi notices” the protesters.
According to Times Live, in one demonstration three persons were shot dead and 350 others were wounded. There were no reports of injuries due to the laser pointer attacks.
A separate report in Bikyamasr.com about November 2011 demonstrations recounted accusations that Egyptian army snipers were aiming green lasers at Tahir Square demonstrators. The website confirmed that green lasers were present, but “as of [this] writing” could not confirm the snipers.
From Times Live, France 24, and Bikyamasr.com
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
Two separate lasers are being used, possibly held by the same person. One beam is aimed at the row of riot police at lower left, the other’s target is out of the camera frame. A more detailed version can be seen at the Toledo Blade; click on the small photo to see it larger.
The Reuters story described burning buildings, smoke plumes, tear gas, hurled stones, petrol bombs and stun grenades. Fourteen protesters and eight policemen were injured, and more than 50 protesters were treated for breathing problems due to tear gas. The story did not mention laser pointers, so it is unknown the extent of their use, what effect they may have had on the situation, and whether any persons were injured or sought treatment.
A photo from the Associated Press was published February 20, showing green laser light directly in the eyes of a riot policeman. The accompanying AP story briefly discussed demonstrations, and did not mention laser pointer use.
Reuters story as published in the Otago Daily Times; AP story as published in the Toledo Blade. Previous LaserPointerSafety.com news items about laser use during riots, including protests in Greece, are listed here.
A view of the crowd (AP via Yahoo News)
Laser pointers were aimed at the police (DPA via Spiegel)
Green and red pointers were also aimed at the Parliament building, where the dots from red pointers spelled the Greek word for “thieves.” (DPA via Spiegel)
A full-size version of this photo is available at the Daily Mail link below.
From the Daily Mail
From The Daily Mail online. Caution: graphic photograph of the dead protester.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The soldier(s) most likely fired either due to the laser pointer provocation, or due to fearing that a weapon with a laser gunsight was being used. The laser pointer light could not harm the troops except possibly at close range if shone into the eyes. Of course, in a protest/street battle situation, soldiers are not going to know or care about the eye safety characteristics of laser pointers.
This is reminiscent of a 2005 case in Florida, where a man aimed a laser pointer at deputies and was shot and killed. It is unfortunate but understandable that those with weapons who are having a laser aimed at them may “shoot first and ask questions later.”