A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Florida man arrested for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and police helicopter

A 51-year-old Florida man was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony, for aiming a laser at a commercial aircraft and at a police helicopter.

On December 28 2013, an aircraft landing at Southwest Florida International Airport, in South Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida, reported a laser incident. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to investigate. It was illuminated by a laser from a residence in Cape Coral, Fl.

Ground officers found Stephen Clyde Plock, 51, and two children at the residence. Plock initially denied knowledge of the laser but eventually admitted that he saw the plane and helicopter and aimed the laser into the sky.

Stephen Plock laser
Stephen Plock


From WINK News and NBC News

UK: Strood teen arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 17-year-old from Strood, near Kent, was arrested December 21 2013 on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft. A police helicopter was looking into a burglary when it was struck by a laser beam at about 11:30 pm. The teen was located on Rochester High Street and was arrested.

He is out on bail until January 17 2014.

From Kent Online

UK: Pilot relates trying to land airplane in bad weather plus a laser strike

A commercial airline pilot told of his experience with a laser pen attack just as he was preparing to land in “atrocious” weather on December 18 2013.

The unnamed pilot was on approach to Newcastle International Airport. He told the Eastern Chronicle:

The weather was atrocious, with strong turbulence and crosswinds outside of the legal limits for my first officer. The aircraft was being battered by the gales and the landing conditions at the airport at the very margins required total concentration from the flight crews, and in particular, myself as the captain landing the aircraft with a large number of passengers inbound from the Mediterranean.”

He was then hit in the left eye, with a “searing pain”. He turned towards the light, looking at the source.

“My left eye was left sore and blurred but, mercifully, weather conditions eased and the landing was uneventful. On this occasion it was just a major distraction on a very difficult night when all my efforts should have been on getting the aircraft safely down.

“Had the attack happened minutes later, both eyes would have been affected and my co-pilot would have had to face the prospect of landing outside his limits, or diverting. The miscreant must have been very aware of the conditions and its only aim was to bring down the aircraft and its occupants.”

From the ChronicleLive and the Telegraph

US: UPDATED - Two Calif. residents convicted of aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter

A jury found two residents of Clovis, California guilty on December 20 2013 of aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno Police helicopter. In addition, one of the pair, 25-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, was also found guilty of attempting to interfere with the helicopter.

On August 25 2012, an emergency transport helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California reported being illuminated by laser beams. The police helicopter was sent to investigate. They too were struck. Rodriguez and Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were located and arrested.

During the three-day December 2013 trial, pilots from both helicopters said that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference. Evidence presented indicated that the laser was “13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices.”

Sentencing was scheduled for March 10 2014. The interference charge has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aiming charges each have a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.

From KERO ABC. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered the March 2013 indictment. The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is here.

UPDATED March 10 2014: Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison, on the charge of interfering with an aircrew. Coleman will be sentenced May 12 2014 and could receive up to five years on the aiming charge.

UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Assuming the article meant the laser was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for laser pointers, then the laser would have been 65 milliwatts. (The maximum for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. is 4.99 mW; there is no maximum for hand-held laser devices which are not marketed as pointers.) For a standard divergence of 1 milliradian, a 65 mW laser has the following hazard distances: It can be a nominal eye hazard up to 190 feet from the laser, causes flashblindness up to 890 feet away, causes interfering glare up to 4,000 feet away, and is a distraction up to 39,600 feet (7.5 miles) away.

US: Laser beams aimed at three airplanes landing in Fort Wayne

Two pilots landing planes at Fort Wayne (Indiana) International Airport reported that a green laser was aimed at their aircraft on December 18 2013. A Fort Wayne police officer later reported seeing another green beam, presumably from the same laser, pointed at a third plane.

The first pilot said the green laser was large and was concentrated on his aircraft for a prolonged period of time. A ground officer was sent to the area where the laser was reported to have been sighted. In the meantime, a second plane was hit. The officer then saw a green beam target a third plane, for about five seconds. He could not pinpoint the exact location, and the beam did not reappear.

The FAA was notified and the case is being investigated.

From the Journal Gazette

US: One JetBlue pilot has migraines, short-term damage from Palm Beach laser exposure

On December 9 2013, a JetBlue airliner was lased as it came in to land at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. Both pilots were exposed to laser light.

Two days later, one of the pilots’ doctor said the aviator is experiencing migraines and “short-term damage” and has been forced to take the week off. Dr. Marc Brockman of the Florida Vision Institute said there will not be long-term damage. He noted that “If this were an industrial laser, it only takes a split second [to do damage]. The doctor also said the laser perpetrator’s aim does not have to be accurate because the eye is naturally drawn to bright lights.

From
WPTV.com

US: Sacramento man arrested for aiming laser pointer at police helicopter

A 20-year-old man was arrested December 8 2013 on a felony charge of discharging a laser at a Sacramento Police Department helicopter.

At around 10:40 that evening, the pilot said the aircraft was “getting a laser hit” from the ground. The laser’s path easily led back to the backyard of a home. Ground officers said Justin James Nesbitt told them he wanted to see if the laser could hit the aircraft.

Nesbitt’s bail was set at $75,000.

Justin James Nesbitt laser Sacramento
Justin James Nesbitt


From CBS Sacramento

Malta: UPDATED - Amateur astronomer admits aiming laser at aircraft; says it could not have caused a problem

A member of the Malta Astronomical Society admitted in court that an aircraft crossed into his laser beam while he was pointing out planets to his young nephew. David Camilleri testified on December 11 2013 that he did not turn off the beam during the June 16 2013 incident.

Taking the stand in his own defense, he told the court that the AirMalta light would have hit the side or tail, but not the cockpit, based on the aircraft’s flight path. He sad that as the son of a retired air traffic controller, he was aware of traffic and flight paths.

In addition, the laser’s range was stated in a brochure as 3 km, while the aircraft was 9 km away from Camilleri’s position.

The prosecution noted that the brochure warned against aiming at aircraft as it could disrupt the flight and was illegal. The prosecutor objected to Camilleri as he was not an expert but was expressing “mere opinion”.

The judge scheduled the next hearing for February 25 2014. An independent court expert will be appointed to provide technical terms and assistance.

From Malta Today

UPDATED - June 4 2014: A web search for “David Camilleri laser” has not turned up any results. The most recent items are stories of his December 11 2013 court appearance. So the outcome of this case does not seem to be available online.

US: West Palm Beach FL man calls police to report he may have lased JetBlue flight

After hearing news reports of a JetBlue airline pilot who was temporarily blinded by a laser beam when on approach to Palm Beach International Airport, a local man called CrimeStoppers to report that he may have inadvertently lased the airliner.

Jacob Finch of West Palm Beach, Florida, told TV news stations that he was using a green laser pointer to exercise his dog. He said “I guess the laser got over that fence and shot out.” Finch lives in the path of the airport, and was using the laser at about the same time as the reported incident, around 7 pm on December 9 2013.

Jacob Finch laser
Jacob Finch


Finch indicated he had no idea of the danger and would not do it again: “Oh my gosh, this possibly hurt somebody? I mean we were oblivious.... I feel horrible. It could have hurt somebody. No more lasers.”

As of December 14, there were no news reports indicating any arrests or other progress in the case from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

From WPTV.com, WWLP.com and WFLX.com

US: UPDATED - News reports quote helicopter pilot who suffered two burned corneas from 1995 laser exposure

During a December 10 2013 ABC News report about a JetBlue airliner being lased in Palm Beach, a helicopter pilot interviewed said he had two burned corneas from a laser attack. From the transcript:

Reporter Jim Avila: “We also spoke to helicopter pilot Steve Robertson who suffered two burned corneas from a laser attack.”
Robertson: “You take the vision out from a pilot, that aircraft’s ability to land is greatly compromised.”

A Google search turned up three stories about Robertson’s injury. A November 2010 Glendale News-Press article included the following:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson is all too familiar with the consequences of pointing a laser at a helicopter.

Robertson's corneas were severely burned 15 years ago when his police helicopter was flashed with lasers. He said it felt similar to being hit by a baseball bat.

"It's no different than pointing a gun or shooting at a police officer," he said. "It could have the same outcome."

Robertson said he avoided crashing because he was flying with another pilot.

After being struck by the laser, Robertson was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors scraped his corneas. He returned to work four days later and still has 20/20 vision, he said.

Robertson's injury was the last laser-related injury to the department's helicopter pilots.


A January 2011 NPR report also has information about the incident and injury:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson remembers the first time he encountered a laser strike. He says his helicopter was hit by a powerful beam of green light one night while he was on patrol.

"It immediately [lit] up the whole cockpit and it hit both of my eyes and burned both of my corneas," says the veteran pilot. "Instantly, I was blinded. It felt like I was hit in the face with a baseball bat — just an intense, burning pain."

Robertson was momentarily incapacitated and would have crashed if his co-pilot hadn't been able to land the chopper. He recovered from his injuries. But since that incident back in the mid '90s, Robertson says he and his fellow police pilots in Glendale have been targeted dozens of times by people shining cheap, easy-to-buy lasers.


Sources: Dec. 10 2013 video report from ABC News. Nov. 2010 story from the Glendale News-Press. Jan. 2011 story from NPR. Not quoted above is a Feb. 2013 ABC News story; it may have used the same interview clip as the Dec. 2013 ABC News story.

UPDATED JUNE 20 2014: Another story referencing Robertson’s claim of two burned corneas is from CBS Los Angeles on June 19 2014.

US: UPDATED - JetBlue pilots manage to land after Palm Beach Fl. laser in cockpit

A JetBlue airliner had a “blinding” laser beamed into the cockpit on December 9 2013, and “managed to land safely” according to news reports based on statements from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office. ABC News said it was “a potential disaster averted.”

The incident happened at about 7 pm, while JetBlue flight 521 was on approach to Palm Beach International Airport. Information from the sheriff’s office said that at 1,700 feet the pilot saw a very bright, constant green laser enter the windscreen. He believed he was intentionally tracked. He had to shield his eyes to continue trying to land the plane.

The sheriff’s office said “Thankfully they were able to land the jet safely.” The beam was thought to be from the northeast corner of two roads, but the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit did not come up with anything.
Click to read more...

UK: London man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 46-year-old man from southeast London was arrested December 3 2013 for shining a laser pen at a Metropolitan police helicopter.

The crew was able to use video equipment to trace the source of the laser, to a home in St. Paul’s Cray. The man was arrested and admitted using the laser.

He was given a police caution for endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From The Guardian

Scotland: UPDATED - Investigators "not ruling out" laser in Glasgow pub helicopter crash

Lasers are being considered as a possible factor in the November 29 2013 fatal crash of a police helicopter into the Clutha pub in Glasgow, Scotland. The Daily Mail reports that “investigators refused to rule out foul play as they examined possible causes of the crash, including whether the pilot was shot at or blinded by a ‘laser pen’.”

While early reports indicated there may have been an engine malfunction, the paper wrote “... there were also fears the horrific accident could have been caused by a powerful green laser beam from a pen-like device shone into the eyes of the pilot – or even a firearm. There have been an increasing number of near-misses caused by the blinding laser devices in recent months.”

No witnesses or other evidence have thus far emerged to implicate the aiming of lasers at the aircraft as a contributing factor. The Daily Mail said Police Scotland investigators “will ‘retain an open mind.’”

From a December 1 article in the Daily Mail, updated 2:24 EST on Dec. 2.

LaserPointerSafety.com has a selected list of laser/aircraft incidents in
Scotland and in the U.K. Additional incidents, in other countries and sorted by various keywords, can be found by clicking the blue category and tag links in the News Index section on the left-hand side of the white part of this page.

UPDATED - December 3 2013: An article in the Scotsman, speculating on causes of the crash, includes this quote: “Charles Newport, consultant for Aviation Network Associates, said: ‘Quite possibly it could be pilot error, that’s the only other factor I can think of. The aircraft could have been flying too low and the pilot could have become disorientated. He could have been blinded by a laser. To me, it seems to be a catastrophe of some sort, unless the pilot had a heart attack. Until they look at the body and carry out pathology tests, and look at the aircraft, there’s little you can do apart from speculate.’”

UPDATED - February 14 2014: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch released a Special Bulletin, stating the accident occurred when both engines flamed out. One of the fuel tanks was empty and the other had 0.4 kg of fuel left in it. From a Wikipedia article about the crash

UPDATED - June 2 2014: An Edinburgh man was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for aiming his green laser pen at the police helicopter on October 1 2013. There is no link between that incident, and the same helicopter crashing into the pub on November 29 2013.

New Zealand: UPDATED - Man arrested for 'painting' police helicopter with laser

The police Eagle helicopter was ‘laser painted” by a blue laser, early in the morning of December 1 2013. The laser came from the central business district of Auckland. A 44-year-old man was arrested and charged with interfering with the helicopter with reckless disregard for the safety of its occupants.

From the New Zealand Herald

UPDATE May 30 2014: Kristian Larsen was sentenced on May 30 to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. Police said the pilot was momentarily blinded and had a headache the day after the December 1 2013 lasing. The judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.” From the New Zealand Herald

Scotland: Nine aircraft targeted by lasers in one night at Glasgow Airport

Nine aircraft were targeted by laser pens while landing at Glasgow Airport on November 25 2013. The incidents happened between 6 and 10 pm local time. In some cases, lasers were shone directly in pilots’ eyes.

Police said they believe all but one of the lasers were aimed from the Duntocher, Drumchapel or Knightswood areas north/northeast of Glasgow Airport. Police called this “extremely dangerous, not to mention stupid and reckless.” They are asking anyone with information to contact them on the non-emergency phone number 101.

From the Evening Times and Herald Scotland

US: Coast Guard helicopter near Honolulu struck by laser during search

A Coast Guard helicopter on a search mission was illuminated by a laser on November 23 2013, while off the coast of Waimanalo Bay near Honolulu. The green beam swept the aircraft and one crew member was directly struck. The crew was able to continue the mission.

The perpetrator was not located.

This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.

From KITV

UK: Man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter over Trowbridge

A 30-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a Wiltshire air ambulance flying over Trowbridge on November 22 2013.

The helicopter crew was on a training exercise so it was able to turn around and identify the laser’s location. Ground officers arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.

From the Bath Chronicle and This Is Wiltshire

Australia: NSW man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 23-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at the New South Wales police helicopter Polair on November 23 2013.

The helicopter crew had been called to assist with a police operation at a party in Cabramatta, a suburb about 30 miles from Sydney, when about 11pm, the pilot reported a laser beam was being directed at the aircraft. Polair was able to direct Cabramatta police to a unit block in Lansdowne Road, Canley Vale, where they arrested the man and seized a laser pointer.

The man, from Canley Vale, was taken to Cabramatta Police Station where he was charged with use prohibited weapon and act to threaten safety of an aircraft. He was granted conditional bail to appear in Liverpool Local Court on 18 December 2013.

From a New South Wales Police Force press release

UK: Barrister expelled for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was expelled as a barrister, for offences that included pointing a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter in August 2011.

Mohammed Arif Riaz pleaded guilty to aiming at the aircraft. In June 2013 he was sentenced to eight months in prison, in Birmingham Crown Court.

The Bar Standards Board, acting on November 13 2013, also found Riaz had failed to declare criminal convictions that occurred in 2004. The Board said he acted with “astonishing recklessness” and “conduct discreditable to a barrister.”

From the Express and Star

US: 45 days for "bored" Ohio man who lased police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 45 days in Franklin County (Ohio) jail and 18 months probation on November 7 2013, for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus police helicopter.

Michael Rademacher, a traveling maintenance man, had purchased the blue laser and used it to etch his initials on his work tools. On the night of March 21 2013, he was bored and decided to aim it at the police helicopter. One pilot said it was the brightest he had seen pointed at him. After regaining their bearings, the pilots identified the source of the beam and notified ground officers. Rademacher initially said he was not involved but he confessed after officers armed with a search warrant found his laser.

In September 2013, Rademacher pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of criminal tools. As part of the plea bargain, the more serious charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft was dropped.

If Rademacher violates probation, he will be imprisoned for 12 months. Rademacher also lost his job as a maintenance man due to his arrest and plea.

From the Columbus Dispatch

US: Drifting diver rescued by aiming laser at searching helicopters

A deep sea diver whose safety line broke and who was drifting out to sea, was rescued November 1 2013 when he aimed a green laser at a helicopter that was searching for him.

When Ron Tubbs failed to surface from his dive off Kaena Point, Oahu, his dive partner contacted the Honolulu Fire Department. A helicopter was sent to search; first from the Fire Department and later a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

As the skies grew dark, Tubbs saw one or both helicopters but they were searching too close to shore. He pulled out a green laser pointer and aimed in the direction of the aircraft. (News stories are not clear as to which helicopter, or perhaps both, Tubbs aimed at.)

Tubbs later said, “When it got dark I think they finally realized they saw the beam of the laser way off in the distance and [I] took care not shine it in their eyes or anything, but in their direction and it reflects off the moisture in the air, so it makes a pretty big beam.”

Ron Tubbs laser submitted
Ron Tubbs, diver rescued by aiming laser at helicopter to get its attention

Ron Tubbs laser rescue 02
Tubbs demonstrates the laser


The laser worked to get the aircrews’ attention. Tubbs was rescued by the Coast Guard helicopter after about four hours in the water, and was taken to a decompression chamber.

Coast Guard Lt. Chris McAndrew said “With how dark it was last night, it would have been impossible to see him unless we were right on top of him, knew exactly where he was. The way were able to find him so quickly was because he had some kind of signaling device.”

From Hawaii News Now, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Huffington Post

UPDATED February 11 2014: Ron Tubbs wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com, to give advice for anyone who might use a laser to attract rescuers:

“The green laser saved my life. The failure of my other safety gear put me in a very serious position. My physical condition was failing quickly. I was vomiting when they picked me up from over four miles from the search area. Any delay due to the use of my laser to get help was very serious.

“My life was depending on the Coast Guard and Fire Department rescuers. To hurt those who are saving other people's lives with a by shining a laser at them is very serious and could have cost me my life.

“The Coast Guard pilot who saved my life reported to me that the green laser and/or any LED light is not seen with their night vision goggles. Three of the four crew were wearing those goggles.

“I will never scuba dive without my green laser again and have it as a safety device. Even so because night vision goggles do not see LED light I would suggest a nice expensive strobe and very bright flashlight (not LED) too or flares as the main signal device in addition to the laser. Also the Fire Department helicopter would not go near a laser as they have only have one pilot and a glass helicopter floor.

“To shine a laser towards a helicopter could actually cause the rescue to be delayed. Also shining the laser right into their eyes could blind the ones you need to rescue you so be very careful if you do use one to get help. Do not put those trying to rescue you at risk too. Shining in their direction and
not at them will work well enough.

“Thanks to those who saved my life. Please all do not put them at risk further by shining a laser at them! “

US: Texas police helicopter returns to scene of lasing, gets lased again; teen arrested

On October 23 2013, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter saw a laser beam targeting the aircraft as it flew near Odessa. Officers on the ground did not find him, so the next night, the helicopter flew over the same area at the same time. A laser was again pointed at them.

Officers on the ground found a teenage suspect who admitted pointing the laser at the helicopter. They arrested Joey Martin, 19, and charged him with illumination of aircraft by intense light.

From NewsWest9.com

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the second story in October 2013 where law enforcement flew special helicopter missions to draw out a laser perpetrator. The other case involved a complex, multi-agency supervision of a suspect in Portland, Oregon. This could be a coincidence -- such missions probably have been flown in the past. But it may also indicate that law enforcement is becoming more proactive and determined to locate and arrest perpetrators.

US: UPDATED - Portland man indicted on 2 federal charges of aiming at aircraft

The FBI announced October 21 2013 that a Portland man was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at two aircraft on October 13 2013. Stephen Francis Bukucs, 39, faces two felony charges for aiming a green laser pointer at a United Airlines flight and a Jet Blue flight. According to the Oregonian, there was “no evidence that Bukucs’ actions caused any problems aboard any airliner.”

Stephen Francis Bukucs laser
Stephen Francis Bukucs, who worked as a private security guard

An AP report said Bukucs pleaded not guilty. He told a judge that he pointed at aircraft over 25 times “for excitement, for thrills”. He would listen to the resulting law enforcement response on a police scanner.

The judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Bukucs, who has no prior criminal record.

UPDATED October 25 2013: Bukucs was identified through sophisticated surveillance coordinated by the FBI, according to a search warrant application detailing the operation. Begun in August 2013, it involved the use of video-equipped aircraft to identify the laser source, secret cameras installed to monitor Bukucs’ apartment, and physical surveillance by Special Agents. An account of the operation is here.

UPDATED March 17 2015: Bukucs was sentenced to six months in federal prison on March 16 2015, with an additional three years probation after his release. Bukucs had pleaded guilty on July 15 2014 to aiming at two commercial airliner flights. Bukucs confessed to the FBI that, over several months, he had targeted up to 25 aircraft and that he did so for entertainment and as a “cat-and-mouse” game with the police who pursued him. According to the U.S. District Attorney, the laser beam Bukucs had was a high-powered version, not the type used in an office presentation.
His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. A task force involving the FBI, Portland police, Port of Portland police and other agencies, flew two airplanes as decoys in August 2013 to try and draw out the perpetrator. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013.
Prosecutors sought a two year sentence. The judge granted leniency (six months) because Bukucs was suffering from mental illness. His girlfriend had died from a seizure, leading him to abuse prescription painkillers and to deliberately target aircraft with the laser pointer. In court, Bukucs apologized and said he was ashamed. He knew the laser could annoy pilots but denied he had malicious intent: “I was just being stupid. I look back now and I'm so embarrassed by my actions." From a March 17 2015 FBI press release (reprinted below), a July 15 2014 Oregonian news story, a March 16 2015 Oregonian news story, and an AP report in the Greenfield Reporter.

Click to read more...

US: Two California teens arrested for lasing CHP airplane

Two teenagers from Roseville, California (about 15 miles northeast of Sacramento) were arrested on October 19 2013 for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol airplane. Brian Levenstein, 18, and an unnamed male, 14, were charged. They may face additional felony charges.

Brian Levenstein laser
Brian Levenstein


At about 10 pm, the Roseville Police received reports of a green laser being aimed at vehicles. As officers were responding, the CHP reported a laser pointed at them.

From the Celebrity Examiner

US: FBI terrorism unit called in to find lasers aimed at New York-area aircraft

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is looking for the source of two laser illuminations of airplanes approaching New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The October 18 2013 announcement offered a reward for information in the incidents.

At 7:35 pm on October 15 2013, a Shuttle America (Delta Connection) airplane was on final approach, six miles from the runway, when the cockpit was lit up by green laser light. The crew said the laser source was west of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (green marker in the map below)

At 10:37 pm the same day, a private aircraft two miles southwest of LaGuardia reported a green laser. The laser source was near the intersection of Broadway and Steinway Streets in Queens (red marker).

New York map copy 2
The two locations are about 7 miles apart directly or 11 miles by roadway; driving between the two sites would take about 20 minutes.


No one on either aircraft was injured by the laser beam, according to the FBI.

There were 54 reported laser incidents involving LaGuardia thus far in 2013, with 18 reports at Newark International Airport and 17 reports involving John F. Kennedy International Airport.

From the Associated Press via Global News and ABC News, and from the Daily Mail. Click the “Read More…” link for the FBI press release.

Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Ohio man arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter

A man was arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter that was filming an October 11 2013 football game at Hubbard (Ohio) High School. The cameraman told police the laser light entered his eyes. He was able to direct police to the laser location, about 1 mile southeast of the stadium.

The FBI was notified. The unnamed man was charged on October 17 2013 with interfering with a flight crew, which is a second-degree felony.

Hubbard is about 5 miles northeast of Youngstown, Ohio.

From the Youngstown News

UPDATED February 20 2014: The man, Nicholas Vecchiarelli, pleaded not guilty to obstructing official business. (News accounts did not say what happened to the charge of interfering with a flight crew.) He was ordered by a judge to stay away from lasers. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

US: Oregon man, 46, arrested for lasing Coast Guard boat and helicopter

A 46-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser from his car, towards a Coast Guard motor lifeboat and helicopter that were conducting training exercises in Depoe Bay, Oregon on October 16 2013. The Coast Guard crew who were exposed were prevented from returning to duty until after being medically examined.

Henry Luther Cole Jr. was found parked near a seawall. He was charged with violating a restraining order, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $40,000. The case was referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which is looking into possible federal charges.

Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles southwest of Portland. It promotes its six-acre harbor as the “world’s smallest”, according to its Wikipedia entry.

From the Statesman Journal and a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office

US: Texas woman arrested for aiming laser at a Border Patrol helicopter

A 20-year-old woman was arrested for shining a laser at a Border Patrol helicopter in Brownsville, Texas, around October 7 2013.

Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz laser
Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz


Police had received an emergency call stating that someone was pointing a laser directly at an aircraft. Brownsville police went to the address and found Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz, who admitted that she aimed at the helicopter but “did not think that it would reach that far.” She was arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

From ValleyCentral.com

Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules

A Crown Court judge sentenced a 28-year-old Belfast man to eight-months in jail, suspended for two years, for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter as it flew over the site of the MTV European Music Awards on November 6 2011.

The helicopter had been patrolling the crowd outside Odyssey Arena when Aaron McCrory aimed his laser pen at the aircraft. According to the prosecutor, McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. When questioned, McCrory first blamed children for aiming the laser, then admitted he had done it but handed over a different laser from the one used to hit the aircraft.

McCrory’s defense lawyer said the act was not done deliberately or out of animosity, but he was “messing about and that was reckless.”

At sentencing on October 7 2013, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said McCrory was “foolish and unthinking…. If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all onboard could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity.”

Performers inside the Odyssey Arena included Coldplay, LMFAO, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Adam Lambert, and Queen.

From UTV

Australia: Two Melbourne men charged for aiming laser from car at police helicopter

Four men were arrested for aiming a laser beam from a moving car, at a police helicopter in Melbourne on October 5 2013.

A 20-year-old man from Preston was charged with interfering with conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon. An 18-year-old man from Coburg will be charged on summons with possessing a prohibited weapon. The other two men were released without charges.

From ABC News

Malta: "Semi-pro" astronomer argues in court that laser pointing is not hazardous

A 48-year-old Malta man is accused of hitting an airplane cockpit five times with a laser beam as it was landing. The pilot reported that he looked directly at the beam which caused a dark spot in his vision, lasting about 10 minutes. The first officer described how the cockpit lit up in green from the beam.

In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.

The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.

From the Malta Independent

Australia: Adelaide-area man arrested for aiming laser at a police helicopter

A 28-year-old man was arrested September 28 2013 after he aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter which was conducting a search in Evanston, SA (about 22 miles north of Adelaide). The man’s location was made known to ground officers, who found and arrested the perpetrator. He was charged with endangering safety of an aircraft and possessing a prohibited weapon.

From the Herald-Sun and Sky News

US: UPDATED - 18 months in prison for Texas man who lased helicopter

On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident.

The helicopter had been conducting a training exercise. The laser light went in the pilots’ eyes and disoriented them. Pilot Bryan Minnear thought he was under attack. In a statement to the court, he wrote: “My first thought was that we would soon hear and feel the impact of bullets hitting the helicopter. At our altitude we had no way of knowing it was a laser pointer, not a weapon…. Why someone would choose to target any aircraft, much less one performing critical work for the public is beyond my understanding.”

From The Monitor. An press release about the sentence, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on September 25 2013, is here. The original LaserPointerSafety.com report of the March 7 2013 incident is here.

US: UPDATED - Man arrested in San Diego, police helicopter pilot is "recovering"

A 25-year-old man was arrested for repeatedly shining a red laser at a San Diego Police Helicopter at about 10:30 pm on September 17 2013. The pilot was temporarily blinded and was reported to be “recovering” after the incident. He was able to inform ground officers of the suspect’s location. The suspect did admit to aiming the laser at the helicopter.

San Diego laser
The name of the suspect was not immediately provided.


From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com

UPDATED September 19 2013: The man arrested was identified as Abel Becerril. A news story from ABC 10 includes video from the ABLE helicopter. There were two men in a parking lot, who hit the helicopter more than seven times. They then separately ran away, tossing the laser pointer during their run. Becerril will be charged with a felony. According to San Diego police, laserings of their helicopter happen “several times a week.” From ABC 10news.com (story, video and still photo shown below).

San Diego laser from helicopter

Germany: Teen on Berlin roof lases three aircraft; is released to parents

Three Air Berlin aircraft were hit by a laser beam while landing at Berlin Tegel Airport on September 8 2013. The pilots were reported to have been blinded. A helicopter located the source, a 14-year-old boy on a rooftop about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the airport. It is unclear whether the laser was also aimed at the helicopter.

The teen admitted to ground officers that he had lased the aircraft. His laser pointer was confiscated and he was handed over to his parents. He faces an investigation for “a serious intervention into the air.”

An airport spokesperson said that there were 27 laser incidents in Berlin during 2012, and 261 in all of Germany.

From BZ-Berlin (original German text and Google-translated English text) and T-Online (original German text and Google-translated English text)

Canada: Two Edmonton incidents highlight increased aiming at police

Police in Edmonton held a news conference to discuss the increasing risk to their flight operations. As of September 9 2013, there have been 10 such incidents. This compares with 9 incidents in all of 2012, and 4 incidents in 2011.

These are the two most recent Edmonton incidents:

  • On September 6 2013, the city police Air-1 helicopter was repeatedly hit by a laser in the west Edmonton area. Two teens were arrested, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female; charges are pending.

  • On September 7 2013, multiple arrests were made after Air-1 was hit for several minutes in north Edmonton. Three males, aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged with assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.

During the press event, police said that users ignore warnings that come with lasers, that they often don’t realize or understand the hazard, that a ban on lasers is not the answer, and that their pilots do fly with laser protective eyewear. Details are at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.

US: 21-year-old arrested in Phoenix; says he didn't know pointing lasers at aircraft is illegal

Antonio Rodriguez, 21, was arrested on two counts of endangerment for illuminating a Phoenix Police helicopter on September 10 2013. The aircraft was patrolling when it was hit by a green laser beam. The beam was traced back to an apartment complex where ground units found Rodriguez.

He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.

Antonio Rodriguez laser
Antonio Rodriguez

From MyFoxPhoenix.com

US: UPDATED - Passenger onboard aircraft arrested for burning holes in seat with homemade laser

On September 5 2013, a passenger onboard a Sun Country Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Seattle used two small, homemade lasers to burn several small holes in fabric near his seat. The crew did not see the holes but smelled the smoke. They feared that an electrical fire might be smoldering somewhere in the aircraft. An emergency diversion was made towards Spokane, 224 miles short of the original destination.

Fifteen minutes later, the 105 passengers and five crew members on the Boeing 737 landed in Spokane. Emergency services came on board and did not find any fire, heat or smoke but did find the burn holes.

Alex Philip Langloys Miller of Minneapolis was arrested by FBI agents and was charged with willful damage to an aircraft. He was released on $10,000 bond.

From the Telegraph, the Spokesman-Review and the Aviation Herald. A photo of the airplane involved, Sun Country Airlines registration number N716SY, is here.

UPDATED October 22 2013: The Island Guardian published more details about the incident. The smoke was first smelled by a passenger who had previously worked as a flight attendant. She notified a crew member. In looking for the source, they saw “a small bright blue light for a moment under one of the seats.” Another passenger thought they saw a person holding a laser between his legs. The suspicious person went to the restroom and returned. The plane made an emergency diversion to Spokane. After landing, a “greeting committee of police, airline officials and the FBI” found burn holes in the seat in front of the suspicious passenger, and found two lasers in the bathroom trash. From a September 13 2013 article in the Island Guardian.

US: California man arrested for shining red laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 22-year-old was arrested in Hemet, California (in the San Jacinto Valley) for suspicion of aiming a laser at a Riverside County sheriff’s helicopter. On September 8 2013, at around 9 pm, a red laser was aimed repeatedly at the helicopter. Hemet police officers found Mariano Angel Godinez at his home where he admitted the laser illumination.

In addition to the laser charge, Godinez was also arrested for drug possession and for disobeying a court order. Bail was set at $25,000.

Mariano Angel Godinez laser
Mariano Angel Godinez


From PE Bloggers

US: UPDATED - Jail and probation for Kentucky man who pointed laser gunsight at police helicopter

Steven French, 50, pleaded guilty on September 4 2013 to second-degree wanton endangerment. On August 24 2013, while working as a security guard, French aimed a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range. The laser’s light hit the cockpit three times.

The Lexington, Kentucky man was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser.

French avoided federal criminal prosecution (with a potential penalty of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine) by pleading guilty in state court. He still may face civil fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From Lex18.com and Kentucky.com. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of his August 13 2013 arrest is here.

Australia: Perth-area man hampers search by aiming laser twice at police helicopter

A search for a missing elderly person in a Perth suburb was disrupted when a police helicopter was twice hit by a laser pointer beam. At about 6:50 pm on September 6 2013, the aircraft was helping in the search when it was hit the first time. It left to do a different task, and came back about 40 minutes later. It was then hit again.

At the same time, several commercial aircraft in the same area reported being hit.

The helicopter directed ground officers to a property in Koondoola. They seized a laser pointer and charged a 36-year-old man with causing fear with laser or light to people in conveyances.

From 7 News and the Herald Sun

UK: £250 fine for aiming laser pen at helicopter with police on board

On September 5 2013, a 25-year-old Ryhope man was fined £250 (USD $390) for aiming a laser pen at a helicopter being flown for Northumbria Police. Gavin Brace had pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Click to read more...

Australia: $10,000 fine after Woodvale man aims laser at police helicopter

Christopher Manning, 40, was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,140) on September 4 2013, for causing fear with a laser or light.

On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.

From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine

US: Four arrests in Phoenix for lasing of helicopter using laser gunsight

Four persons were arrested in Phoenix on September 1 2013, for aiming the red beam from a .45 caliber handgun’s laser aiming sight at a police helicopter. The vision of the pilot and observer was temporarily blocked.

Ground officers found the four in a midtown apartment complex. Two men, Peter Ospitale, 28, and Paul Word, 31, were arrested for investigation of endangerment. Two women, Mary Grace and Marci Gomez, both 28, were arrested for investigation of obstructing government operations.

Peter Ospitale laserPaul Word laser
L-R: Peter Ospitale, Paul Word

Mary Grace laserMarci Gomez laser
L-R: Mary Grace, Marci Gomez


From MyFoxPhoenix.com, KHPO, and KJZZ

US: UPDATED - Man previously arrested in Virginia laser incident dies in car crash

A 20-year-old Virginia man who had been arrested July 27 2013 for aiming a laser at a state police aircraft, died September 2 2013 in a car crash. Matthew L. Farr was driving a 2001 Lexus SUV near his home when the vehicle crossed the median and struck a tree on the opposite side of the road. Police said Farr was the only person in the car, and no other vehicle was involved.

WTVR quoted a nearby resident as saying she heard the crash around 2:30 am, but there were no police on the scene until around 7 am. The road was closed until 2:30 pm while police investigated. The resident said there had been four fatal crashes on the road near her home in the past few years.

Matthew Farr laser
Matthew L. Farr


Farr had been charged with one misdemeanor count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft by aiming a green laser beam at a Virginia State Police Cessna 182 patrol aircraft. The pilot had temporary pain, according to a police spokesperson. Farr’s court date had been set for later in September 2013.

From WRIC, WTVR, NBC12.com, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The original LaserPointerSafety.com item about Farr’s July arrest is here.

Russia: Laser aimed at passenger jet landing at Moscow airport

A laser beam was aimed at a passenger jet as it was preparing to land on August 28 2013, according to the Russian Interior Ministry’s transport department.

The pilot of the Tupolev Tu-204 jet, bound from the city of Krasnodar in south Russia to Moscow, said he was blinded by the beam as the plane was approaching Vnukovo Airport. The plane landed normally; all 220 passengers and 8 crew were unhurt. An investigation is underway.

A similar illumination occurred on August 24 2013, to an airplane on approach to Pulkovo-1 airport in St. Petersburg, according to a UPI report.
Click to read more...

UK: Teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 15-year-old boy from Sunderland (in Tyne and Wear) was arrested on August 27 2013 for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter on Wearside. He was charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft. A court date of September 19 2013 was set.

From BBC News Tyne and Wear

UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress

A police helicopter was searching Hebburn (in Tyne and Wear) on May 8 2013 for a missing 11-year-old boy, when the cockpit filled with green laser light. The crew was startled and the pilot changed course. The beam was traced to a home in Hebburn. In a back bedroom, ground officers found two persons on a bed, 18-year-old Victoria Rayner and her 25-year-old boyfriend Robert Gilbert. Both denied having a laser pen. After a struggle during the arrest, officers found the laser pen under the mattress.

On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - "Bored" Kentucky man jailed for testing laser gunsight range on police helicopter

A 50-year-old man was arrested for wanton endangerment August 24 2013, after he aimed his laser gunsight at a Lexington (Ky.) Police helicopter. Steven French was working as a security guard on a construction site. He told police he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range.

Steven French laser
Steven French

From WKYT

UPDATED August 26 2013: WKYT interviewed the helicopter pilot, Sgt. Scott May. He told the station he was “shocked” when he heard the laser was attached to a loaded 9mm pistol. He said “When you combine the two elements of laser and gun, it’s quite alarming to us…. Now, the next time this happens, we’ve got to step back and say, ‘Is there a gun attached to this laser.’ “ From WKYT

UPDATED September 10 2013:
French pleaded guilty on September 4 2013. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail; 30 days will be served while the remaining 11 months will be probated for two years. He is also required to complete 100 hours of community service, and to forfeit his gun and laser. Additional details are here.

UK: Two arrested in Maidenhead for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Two males were arrested August 20 2013 for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter in Maidenhead, a town about 12 miles west-northwest of London Heathrow Airport. They were arrested on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft; in addition, a laser pen was seized. A 17-year-old was bailed until September 10 while the other male arrested was released without charge.

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said this was the first incident he had heard of in “a long time” in the area.

From the Maidenhead Advertiser

US: California man arrested for shining laser at CHP helicopter

Emilio Montenegro, 28, was arrested August 20 2013 for aiming a laser into the cockpit of a California Highway Patrol helicopter that was flying over San Miguel, in the central coast county of San Luis Obispo. Montenegro is charged with one felony count of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft and four unrelated warrants. He has a history of court charges including possession of controlled substances.

Emilio Montenegro laser
Emilio Montenegro


From the Tribune

US: 11-year-old denies aiming laser at Michigan airplanes

Pilots landing at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 17 2013 complained about a green laser being aimed at them from an area three miles to the east. Two days later, police responded to the same area, in the city of Kentwood, after “someone reported a similar light shining in their window.” In a nearby home where an 11-year-old boy lived, police found and confiscated a “high-powered” laser. The boy denied aiming at the planes. The investigation is still open.

From WWMT Newschannel 3 and MLive. A video news report is at WOODTV.com.

UK: Man arrested in Great Yarmouth for aiming laser pen 7-8 times at police helicopter

A 34-year-old man was arrested for aiming a green laser pen at a National Air Support helicopter as it flew over Gorleston on August 21 2013. The pilot and crew were dazzled seven or eight times from the laser light. They were able to guide ground officers to the man’s home in Great Yarmouth. The unnamed individual was spotted aiming at the helicopter, and was arrested; his laser pen was also seized.

A Norfolk police spokeswoman said “He has received a caution for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.”

From the Norwich Evening News 24

US: Denver police "swarm" a home after blue laser is aimed at airplane

“Police came from every direction” to search a west Denver home, after a pilot reported a laser beam aimed at an airplane on August 15 2013. A police helicopter responding to the report was able to locate an active laser and guided ground units to the home. According to a TV report, as police swarmed the home the “neighbors had no idea what was happening.”

One neighbor interviewed said a man had aimed a “bright blue light” at her children. A woman in the police-targeted house said her son-in-law was contacted by police but could not say if he was charged. She did say that police said they would turn the case over to the FBI.

The house is located about 21 miles southwest of Denver International Airport.

According to the FAA, there were 32 Denver-area laser/aircraft incidents during 2012, compared with 41 from January 1 to August 15 2013.

From Fox31 Denver

Russia: String of recent laser pointer hits on aircraft

The pilots of two airliners reported attempts to blind them with laser pointers near Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on August 20 2013, according to Russian transport police.

The first incident occurred shortly after midnight, when a laser pointer beam hit the cockpit of an Astana-bound airliner. The second took place less than an hour later, targeting a Moscow-London flight shortly after take-off, the Interior Ministry’s Transport Department said in a statement. “No one was harmed in either incident,” the department said.

The incidents are the latest in a string of similar attacks, with transport police reporting at least five aircraft being targeted by laser pointers in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the previous week alone.

After a series of incidents involving lasers near airports in 2011, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, a bill was introduced in the State Duma to punish violators with jail terms of up to seven years in prison. The Duma plans to look again at the bill in the fall 2013 session.

From RIA Novosti. See also this August 13 2013 story from Pravda, “Laser attacks against aircraft in Russia continue”

US: Second Philadelphia arrest in a week for lasing a police helicopter

For the second time in a week, a Philadelphia man has been arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter. Jose Feliciano, 19, is accused of illuminating the aircraft with a green laser beam at about 8:30 pm on August 15 2013. Police said "The light hit the officers in the eyes, causing pain and temporary loss of vision.”

Jose Feliciano laser
Jose Feliciano


Feliciano was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, and "related offenses." He could also face federal charges.

This comes four days after 20-year-old Luis Martinez was arrested for a similar type of police helicopter illumination.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

US: Two airliners and helicopter hit by laser light in vicinity of Newark airport

Two commercial airliners on approach to Newark's airport were hit by lasers on August 15 2013. In addition, a private helicopter was also illuminated the same evening, about 22 miles away. There were no reported injuries or eye effects.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at 9:20 pm the helicopter was about 10 miles south of Newark Liberty International Airport when it was illuminated with a green and white laser at 1,600 feet.

About a half hour later, a Boeing 737 and an Embraer 135 were targeted with a green laser while on final approach to Newark Liberty airport. They were at an altitude of 3,000 feet, one mile east of Teterboro Airport.

The two incidents are probably unrelated, since Teterboro Airport is about 13 miles north-northeast of Newark Liberty, and the helicopter was 10 miles south of Newark Liberty.

From The Republic

US: Two persons arrested, one charged for aiming a laser at a Philadelphia police helicopter

Two persons were arrested August 11 2013 after a Philadelphia police helicopter was targeted with a green laser beam. The aircraft was searching for a woman reported to be screaming; this was later determined to be a false report. The helicopter officers were hit with the green beam. They tried to elude it but it remained aimed at them, interfering with their vision and instruments.

Luis Martinez laser
Luis Martinez


Ground units arrested Luis Martinez, 20 and an unnamed other person. Martinez was charged with aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. He also could be charged on federal counts.

From WPVI

Australia: Perth-area man hits police helicopter multiple times, is arrested

A 40-year-old man from the Woodvale area of Perth was arrested August 3 2013 for the offense of using a portable device to direct a visible lasers at or near a conveyance. The Western Australia police helicopter was patrolling Woodvale at about 10 pm. It was hit several times with a laser light. About five minutes later it was hit again. A forward-looking infrared camera was used to locate the unnamed suspect.

From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today

UK: Man in parked car aims laser pen at West Midlands police helicopter

A 25-year-old man from Nechells, an inner-city area of Birmingham, was arrested August 6 2013 after he aimed a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter. The incident occurred at 11:30 pm in Edgbaston, an affluent area of Birmingham. The laser beam came from a parked car. Ground officers arrested Abdulhamid Ansi, a factory worker, on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. A court date was set for August 21 2013.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, there have been over 220 laser incidents in the West Midlands "in the last two years", as of July 3 2013.

Arrest report from the Birmingham Mail and West Midlands Police; CAA statistics from an earlier Birmingham Mail article

Canada: Teen arrested in Calgary for temporarily blinding police pilot with laser

19-year-old Michael Sanche was arrested on five charges after illuminating a Calgary police helicopter three times on August 1 2013. Police said there is no known motive although alcohol may have been a factor.

Calgary police laser protective anti-laser goggle glasses
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights


During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.

Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Virginia police pilot has temporary pain from laser beam; man arrested

20-year-old Matthew L. Farr of Chesterfield (Va.) County was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Farr is accused of aiming a green laser beam at a Virginia State Police Cessna 182 patrol aircraft about 10 miles southeast of Richmond, on July 27 2013. The pilot had temporary pain, according to a police spokesperson.

The pilot continued to fly in the area, to locate the laser, and was illuminated again. Farr was arrested by officers on the ground after a search of about 45 minutes.

Matthew Farr laser
Matthew L. Farr


Police said the laser was “ten times more powerful than the average store bought device.” [Assuming store laser pointers are below the FDA limit of 5 mW, that would put Farr’s laser at 50 mW. The beam from such a laser would cause visual interference at distances 3.16 times greater than a 5 mW pointer.]

WTVR spoke to Farr, who admitted shining the laser “only briefly” and said he was surprised “when the cavalry arrived” at his home.

If convicted on the misdemeanor, Farr could face up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Federal charges could also be filed.

From
NBC12.com, WTVR CBS 6, and the Washington Post

UPDATED September 3 2013: Farr died in an automobile accident at around 2:30 am on September 2 2013. His SUV went off the road and hit a tree on a road near his home. More information is here.

Canada: Richmond Hill teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Nima Serghani, 19, was arrested on charges that include mischief endangering life, for aiming a laser pen at the York Regional Police Helicopter on July 21 2013. The pilot, who was helping with a weapons call, left the area to ensure the safety of the crew and aircraft. Ground officers entered a home, found a bright-light source and drug-related items. A court date was set for August 2013.

Pic 2013-07-31 at 5.34.52 PM
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.


From 680news.com and YorkRegion.com. Thanks also to Kevin Smith for informing us as to which York (U.K. or Canada) was involved!

US: Guilty plea for L.A. tourist who lased two helicopters

On September 6 2012, Isaias Gonzalez, a 25-year-old tourist from Denver, pointed a green laser beam at a KTLA news helicopter flying over Los Angeles. A L.A. County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was sent to investigate and it too was lased.

On July 25 2013 Gonzalez pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally aiming his laser at the two aircraft. He could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, scheduled for December 2013.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, Gonzalez is the second person prosecuted by their office for violating the Feb. 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim at or near the path of an aircraft. (The first was Adam Gardenhire, sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in March 2013.)

From the Los Angeles Times

US: 30 months for Dallas man who lased helicopter "to see how far it would go"

Kenneth Santodomingo was sentenced July 25 2013 to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter.

A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.

“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.

US: UPDATED - Laser pointer aimed at medical helicopter by Ohio man

A 32-year-old man was indicted by a Cleveland federal grand jury July 24 2013 for aiming a laser pointer at an emergency helicopter approaching Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio on June 15 2013. The man, Travis D. Krzysztofiak, had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.

UPDATED January 28 2014 -- Krzysztofiak pleaded guilty on Jan 27 2014 to one count of aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, a felony charge. He will be sentenced on May 6 2014. From Vindy.com

UPDATED August 26 2016 — Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records. From WFMJ.COM
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Omaha man sentenced to two years for aiming laser at aircraft and helicopter

Michael A. Smith of Omaha was sentenced July 22 2013 to two years in federal prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft.

The sentencing came a little over one year after the July 11 2012 lasings in which Smith -- 29 at the time -- aimed a red laser pointer at a Southwest Airlines aircraft, and subsequently six or seven times at an Omaha police department helicopter that was trying to find the perpetrator. The conviction and sentence appear to be for the helicopter incident only.

In addition, Omaha.com reported that Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

For the July 11 2012 incident, he could have received a five-year sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

More information is in our stories on the original search for Smith and on his April 24 2013 conviction.

From KETV, WOWT News and Omaha.com. Thanks to Jack Dunn, Greg Makhov and John Neff for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATED June 27 2014 - A federal appeals court upheld the two-year sentence. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Michael Smith’s assertion that he didn’t believe the laser would reach the aircraft. The court said the February 14 2012 federal law doesn’t require prosecutors to show that he intended to hit the aircraft. From The Republic.

Australia: Sydney-area man arrested for pointing laser at police helicopter

A 36-year-old man was arrested in Greenacre, about 15 km from Sydney, one day after a laser pointer was aimed at the New South Wales Police Force’s PolAir2 helicopter on July 20 2013. The helicopter crew contacted Barkstown Police with the location. On July 21, the police executed a search warrant at the address and arrested the unnamed man. He was charged with acting to threaten the safety of an aircraft/person. He was freed on bail and will appear in court on August 21 2013.

From the New South Wales Police Force and News.com.au

US: UPDATED - Pilot of crashed 777 first says he was blinded by a light; then retracts any vision effects

The pilot of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed July 6 2013 on approach to San Francisco International Airport, told U.S. investigators that he was temporarily blinded by a bright light when 500 feet above the ground (approximately 34 seconds before impact). The Boeing 777 aircraft crashed at 11:28 am local (PDT) time. Thus, it was daylight when the bright light flash occurred.

During a press conference on July 10, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the pilot’s statement. Deborah Hersman was asked specifically if it could have been a laser pointed from the ground. She replied “We really don’t know at this point what it could have been. We need to look into it. We need to understand what he’s talking about. We may need to follow up with him.”

Hersman described the flash as only “a temporary issue”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

From USA Today (initial story; story about laser hazards), SFGate, and ABC News.

UPDATED July 11 2013: NTSB chair Deborah Hersman gave additional details indicating that the light was not a laser and did not interfere with the pilot’s vision.

Click to read more...

Egypt: Dozens of laser pointers aimed at helicopters during protest

Egyptian protesters aimed dozens of laser pointers at military helicopters overflying the crowd, on July 1 2013. This appears to be the first time that multiple laser pointers have been deliberately converged on aircraft. There were no immediate reports of injuries to the air crews, or of the laser light causing the pilots to lose control.

Pic 2013-07-01 at 5.51.00 PM


Complete coverage, including more photos and videos, is in this LaserPointerSafety.com story in the “Statistics, laws, all other news” section.

US: Florida man charged with felony after lasing sheriff's helicopter

A 20-year-old man from Plant City, Florida was charged with a third degree felony for aiming a laser device at a St Lucie County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, around June 27 2013. The penalty is up to five years in jail and a $200,000 fine.

Brian Alan Hart laser
Brian Alan Hart


The helicopter was on routine patrol over Fort Pierce when someone in a black pickup truck pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft, twice. Ground deputies arrested front seat passenger Brian Alan Hart, who had a green laser pointer in his boot. The arresting officer told hard the light could have caused a crash. Hart apologized and said that “he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had done.”

A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said laser incidents “happen about once a month.”

Pic 2013-06-28 at 3.09.07 PM
The “A” marks the location of the incident.


From TCPalm.com and WPTV.com

US: Orlando-area tourist arrested for lasing helicopter during search mission

A tourist from Asheboro, North Carolina was arrested in Kissimmee, Florida (south of Orlando and east of Walt Disney World) on June 25 2013, and was charged with pointing a laser device at a pilot.


Ryan Paul Lucas - laser
Ryan Paul Lucas


The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department was searching for two missing boaters at around 11 pm. The pilot and observer said a green laser light blinded them three times. They were able to locate the source, a vacation rental property.

Deputies entered the house where Ryan Paul Lucas gave them the laser. The Sheriff’s Department quoted Lucas as telling the deputies that he “messed up and should not have shined the light at the helicopter.” Lucas was arrested and booked. One report said Lucas was 20 years old; another said he was 21.

The missing boaters were safety located, though it is not known whether they were found by the helicopter crew.

Pic 2013-06-26 at 7.40.44 PM
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World


From AroundOsceola.com and Central Florida News Channel 13

US: 11-year-old Omaha boy targets aircraft with laser pointer

An 11-year-old Omaha boy was said to have aimed a laser pointer at an airplane approaching Eppley Airfield, the largest airport in Nebraska. Police were not initially able to locate the perpetrator of the lasing, which occurred about 12:45 am on June 20 2013, approximately 14 miles southwest of the airport.

However, at 3:30 am, a caller told police that juvenile males -- one with a laser pointer -- had knocked on his door and then run away. The caller’s location was about a mile from the original laser incident search area.

Police responding to the call found the 11-year-old and the laser pointer nearby. He was booked and then later released to his mother.

From the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Radio Network

Canada: Oshawa man facing charges (for daytime lasing?) of helicopter

A 44-year-old Oshawa man was charged with assault with a weapon, mischief endangering life, common nuisance and obstructing police after a June 14 2013 incident. The Durham Regional Police Service helicopter Air-1 was hit by a laser beam several times while patrolling above Oshawa.

Unusually, the laser illumination was said to have taken place at noon, according toThe Star.

Crew on the helicopter directed ground officers to a parking lot where Richard McIntosh was arrested. His green Class IIIB laser was seized by police.

From The Star and 680 News

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although The Star stated the incident took place at noon, this could be a misreading of the time on the police report. We have seen other stories where one news outlet said an incident occurred during daytime while others reported (correctly) that the time was, for example, 12:45 AM and not 12:45 PM.

US: San Diego-area man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

Fernando Arrollado, 34, was arrested June 8 2013 for illuminating a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department helicopter five times with a green laser beam. He was jailed on five counts of discharging a laser light at an aircraft.

Arrollado’s location, on an apartment balcony in the city of La Mesa, was identified by officers using an onboard forward-looking infrared camera. They called in the La Mesa police. Arrollado admitted shining a 20 milliwatt laser at the helicopter and was arrested.

From ABC 10 News

US: UPDATED - Phoenix police helicopter lased twice in one night; one arrest made

A Phoenix police department helicopter was illuminated twice in one night by a laser beam, early in the morning of May 29 2013. No arrest was made in the first incident, which occurred shortly after midnight. Two hours later, and 15 miles away by air, the helicopter was once again illuminated. An unidentified man was arrested in the second incident. A police spokesperson said there was no immediate indication of any crew injury in either incident.

Pic 2013-05-29 at 2.40.36 PM

The first incident occurred at the red square location, the second incident occurred two hours and 15 miles away at the green triangle location.


From MyFoxPhoenix.com

UPDATE May 30 2013 - An arrest was made in the second incident. Ralph Rubi, Jr., 37, of Phoenix was arrested on three charges of endangerment. Police said they found a laser device in his home, and that Rubi was a suspect in a previous incident involving a helicopter landing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. From RTT News, AZfamily.com, and CBS 5.

Pic 2013-06-27 at 3.53.15 PM
Ralph Rubi



US: Columbus man indicted for lasing police helicopter

A man was indicted May 10 2013 for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus (Ohio) police helicopter. Michael Rademacher, 27, faces one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser, and one count of possession of criminal tools. (It was not clear if the laser was the “criminal tool.”) He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted on both counts.

The incident happened March 21 2013, when officers in the helicopter were hit by the bright blue beam. They were startled but were able to regain their composure and located the source as Rademacher’s home. Ground officers searched the home and recovered a “high-powered laser.”

From 10TV.com and the Columbus Dispatch

Australia: Suspended sentence for man who lased helicopter 30 times

A man from Ormeau, Queensland, on May 9 2013 was given a three-month suspended jail sentence with a three-year good behavior bond, after being convicted of threatening the safety of persons on board an aircraft.

On December 28 2012, two commercial aircraft reported being illuminated by laser beams. They notified police, who sent a helicopter to investigate. A laser beam was aimed at the helicopter up to 30 times over a five minute period. The beam was traced to the Ormeau home of Jason Gavin, 38. The laser was found, hidden, during a search. It was confiscated by police. (Gavin later was convicted of a lesser charge of possessing a restricted item.)

Gavin pleaded guilty to the charge of threatening safety. During sentencing the judge said the plea showed that Gavin had taken personal responsibility for his actions. But past charges of careless driving and minor criminal activity also showed “you have a history that shows in the past you’ve put people at risk,” the judge said. “I don’t think you need to be a person that understands E=mc2 to understand the risk of pointing a laser at aircraft.”

From SkyNews

US: Two arrested for aiming laser pointer at Pasadena police helicopter

Two men were arrested May 6 2013 for aiming a laser beam at a Pasadena (CA) Police Department helicopter that was responding to an apparently unrelated burglary alarm. As the aircraft was checking the area, a laser beam was shone at the helicopter. The pilot and observer, who were not injured by the light, directed ground units to the source. Officers found 30-year-old Joel Reyna and 32-year-old Aram Yashu, both of Alhambra. One of the suspects was on parole, which allowed officers to perform a warrantless search of the area. They found a laser pointer, drug paraphernalia and evidence of credit card fraud.

Charges were filed for obstructing a flying aircraft, as well as other charges. The suspects were held in lieu of $25,000 bail. No evidence of burglary was found at the site of the alarm, and the suspects are not believed to have been involved in any burglary.

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

US: UPDATED - Omaha man convicted of July 2012 airliner, helicopter lasing

30-year-old Michael A. Smith of Omaha, Nebraska was convicted April 24 2013 in federal court, for multiple instances of aiming a laser pointer at an airliner and a police helicopter. He will be in jail until his sentencing, scheduled for July 22 2013. Smith could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w

A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.


On July 11 2012, a Southwest Airlines pilot was lased as he came in for a landing in Omaha. Subsequently, an Omaha Police Department helicopter was also lased six or seven times, with the pilot reporting being temporarily blinded. Smith was arrested in his backyard by a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy.

From KETV and Omaha.com. LaserPointerSafety.com originally reported on this in July 2012, when police had not yet arrested Smith. The photo above is from that story.

UPDATED July 22 2013: Michael Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He was the first person in Nebraska indicted under the February 14 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft. From KETV and WOWT News.

US: UPDATED - 2 years probation in May 2012 St. Louis helicopter lasing

A St. Louis area man was sentenced on April 11 2013 to two year’s probation, two months home confinement and 40 hours of community service.

On May 18 2012, Michael Brandon Smith, then 35 years old, aimed a green laser beam at a St. Louis Metro Air Support helicopter that was investigating a burglary. The beam illuminated the cockpit several times. The vision of the pilot and observer was affected; the observer later said he had short-term vision problems. Ground units arrested Smith -- still with the laser in his hand -- at his residence in O’Fallon, Missouri. The incident diverted the helicopter from the burglary investigation.

Smith pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2012 to one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.

From STLtoday.com and The Republic. The story was originally briefly reported in LaserPointerSafety.com.

UK: Middlesbrough man "defiant" after suspended jail term for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A Middlesbrough man who lased a Cleveland Police helicopter appeared "defiant", according to the Daily Star, after he received a six-month suspended sentence. Jack Waistle, 21, had pleaded guilty to a charge of endangering an aircraft. He had pointed a laser pen at the helicopter, forcing the pilot to change direction to avoid the bright light.

During the April 10 2013 court hearing, Waistle was said to be “very scared about what could happen to him”. Recorder Graham Cook said “You are right to be scared, you could easily be going behind that door” meaning jail. Instead, Waistle received a six-month suspended sentence plus 150 hours of unpaid work.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.47.37 AM


Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.

From the Daily Star

US: Philadelphia man jailed 3 months for July 2012 lasing of news helicopter

Daniel Dangler, 30, of Philadelphia was sentenced to three months in jail plus seven months home confinement and three years supervised release, for aiming a green laser at a news media helicopter. This sentence was handed down as a result of the February 14 2012 federal legislation making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path.

Pic 2013-04-11 at 12.06.30 AM
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler


On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.

He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.

The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.

Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”

From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.

For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.

Click to read more...

US: Alice, TX men face felony charges for Dec. 2012 helicopter lasing

The FBI announced on April 1 2013 that two men from Alice, Texas have been charged under federal law with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The men, Joshua Nathaniel Vela and Jon David Lopez, both 21, could receive up to five years in federal prison and up to $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, on December 27 2012 each man aimed a laser pointer at the Halo Flight medical helicopter.

From an FBI Houston Division press release. Thanks to Chuck Maricle of AixiZ for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - 30 month sentence for California teen Adam Gardenhire

Adam Gardenhire, 19, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on March 25 2013, for aiming a “commercial grade” green laser pointer at an airplane and a police helicopter in California. The crime has a maximum prison term of up to five years. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month penalty, but U.S. DIstrict Judge Stephen Wilson said he wanted to send a message that Gardenhire’s behavior was “reckless and very dangerous.”

As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.

Adam Gardenhire laser
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com


On March 29 2012, the North Hollywood teenager aimed a laser beam from his backyard at a Cessna that was landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot had vision problems lasting about a day, after being lased multiple times in the eye. The Pasadena Police Department sent a helicopter to investigate. Gardenhire again aimed at the craft, hitting the pilot six times. The pilot had protective equipment and was not injured.

Pic 2012-04-02 at 9.41.32 AM
Gardenhire lased the aircraft from his backyard (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).


According to his attorney, Gardenhire was unaware of the hazard: “[He] had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away…. [A] severe sentence would be disproportionate to the conduct.”

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire told FBI agents that the friend who loaned him the laser told him not to shine it at anyone’s eyes because it would blind people. She said Gardenhire telling the FBI he didn't think about the dangers doesn't mean he wasn't aware of the dangers and responsible for the consequences.

"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse - that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said, according to the Pasadena Star-News.

Gardenhire was arrested in April 2012. He was the second person indicted under the Feb. 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. (The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.) He and pleaded guilty in October 2012. He could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the federal law. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said in court that he sentenced Gardenhire to 30 months so as to send a message to other people.

From CNN, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, Wired and Burbank Leader. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered this story in March 2012 when the initial incident was reported, and in April 2012 when Gardenhire was indicted.

US: UPDATED - 3 men, 1 woman indicted in 3 separate California incidents

On March 21 2013, a federal grand jury in California indicted four individuals who were involved in three separate incidents of aiming lasers at aircraft. In all three cases, charges were filed under both the 2012 Federal law making it illegal to aim pointers at aircraft or their flight path, and also under statutes making it illegal to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft.

One of the defendants’ lawyers said the charges were overkill. KGET reported that David Torres, attorney for Brett Lee Scott, said “The penalty in the federal system with respect to this particular crime, doesn't fit at all. And, I think that when you look historically as to why this particular crime was enacted, it was enacted because of folks like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and folks that have these laser-guided missiles, things of that nature, where they didn't want folks pointing guided lasers up in the air, things of that nature. But, here you have teenagers doing this from time to time or other individuals who are unaware of what the law is.”

Indicted were:
  • Brett Lee Scott, 25, of Bakersfield CA. Alleged to have flashblinded sheriff’s office helicopter pilots for “minutes”, and causing disorientation. The laser strikes came over a 3-month period.
  • Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, aka Javier Rodrigues, 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, both of Clovis CA. Alleged to have deliberately targeted a medical helicopter from the Children’s Hospital Central California, as well as a police helicopter sent to investigate.
  • Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 22, of Clovis CA. Alleged to have aimed a red laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter, causing a law enforcement mission to be called off.

Additional details are in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, reprinted below (click the “Read More…” link).

From KGET and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California

UPDATED November 4 2013: Charles Conrad Mahaffey pleaded guilty to the federal charge. He will be sentenced on January 27 2014.

UPDATED December 20 2013: Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was found guilty of attempting to interfere with a police helicopter. He and his girlfriend Jennifer Lorraine Coleman were also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer at the police helicopter. They will be sentenced March 10 2014.

UPDATED May 12 2014: Jennifer Lorraine Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Brett Lee Scott pleaded guilty and will be sentenced July 21 2014. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Texas men arrested for lasing Homeland Security helicopter while high

Two Texas men were arrested on March 7 2013 after allegedly aiming a green laser three times at a Department of Homeland Security helicopter flying near Donna, Texas. The beam temporarily blinded the pilot, who was wearing night vision goggles. He took evasive action to avoid the beam. He was able to identify the vehicle from which the laser was aimed, and directed ground units to its location.

Margarito Tristan laser Eugene Uresti laser
Tristan, left, and Uresti


Margarito Tristan III, 23, was charged with illuminating an aircraft with a laser pointer, impairing the operator, and with possession of marijuana. Eugene Uresti, 22, was charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication. A third occupant of the car was released with no charges filed.

Tristan told arresting officers that he was trying to hit a star with the laser.

From the Houston Chronicle

UPDATED September 25 2013: Tristan was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his prison term. Details are here.

US: UPDATED - Guilty plea for Dallas man who aimed green laser pointer at helicopter

22-year-old Kenneth Santodomingo pleaded guilty on February 28 2013, to aiming a green laser pointer several times at a Dallas police helicopter that had been searching for car burglary suspects on January 28 2013. The light spread across the windscreen and obscured the pilot’s vision.

Pic 2013-04-02 at 2.30.01 AM

The entire video from the Air One helicopter can be seen
here at YouTube.


The incident was captured on video. Above is a still frame from the video, showing the maximum laser impingement on the camera. (It should be noted that this is a very brief and atypical freeze frame; for most of the video the laser is waving around but is not aimed directly into the camera lens.)


Kenneth Santodomingo laser
Kenneth Santodomingo


When arrested, he was clad only in his boxer shorts. Santodomingo told officers “I wanted to see how far it [the laser’s beam] would go.” Sentencing is scheduled for July 25 2013; he could receive up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

From NBCDFW.com and the Dallas Morning News

UPDATED July 25 2013: Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

US: Long Island man arrested for lasing two aircraft

A Long Island man was arrested in January 2013 after confessing to pointing a laser beam at two aircraft.

On August 21 2012, a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 was illuminated by a green laser beam while at 12,000 feet over Suffolk County on its way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Suffolk County police helicopter was sent to investigate and also had a green beam pointed at it. The police pilot was able to trace the beam back to the home of Angel Rivas in Shirley, a community in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island’s south shore. After landing, the three persons on the police helicopter were treated at a hospital and released.

At Rivas’ home, patrol officer, Matthew Dewitt, confronted the 33-year-old, who denied aiming at the aircraft. No action was taken due to a lack of any other evidence.

On January 4 2013, Dewitt was responding to a call of an altercation at a convenience store. Rivas turned out to be one of the persons involved. When asked for ID, Rivas said he did not have any due to a suspended license, and then told Dewitt “You know me, you were at my house, I was the one who lasered the plane.” Rivas was immediately arrested, advised of his Miranda rights, and was taken into custody.
Click to read more...