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US: 12 planes report a laser in Seattle. UPDATE: Arrest made

Pilots on 12 jetliners landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 22 2009, reported that someone was shining a green laser light into their cockpits.

All the planes were targeted during a 20-minute period Sunday night, and all landed safely. But the incident led to pilots simultaneously trying to avoid being temporarily blinded by the light while trying to help authorities pinpoint its source, believed to be about a mile north of the airport.

Air traffic controllers continuously cautioned pilots about the light during the episode, which lasted from 7:10 to 7:30 p.m. PT.

A pilot reported the source to be a block and a half west of an interstate. Airport authorities said they conducted two searches of the area but did not find the culprit.

Officials note that it is a federal crime to point a laser light at an aircraft, and pilots are required to report encounters with laser lights. Officials fear that the lights could cause an accident by blinding pilots or otherwise affecting their night vision.

The FBI has “made it a priority” to investigate laser incidents, according to CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve.. MSNBC reports that the Transportation Safety Administration is also involved in the investigation.

Additional details from CNN and MSNBC. A CNN video of the news story “Lasers aimed at planes”, reported by Jeanne Meserve, is also available from CNN’s website. The video adds information on the FBI which is not in the website print version.
UPDATE: On March 6 2009, police arrested Christopher C. Saunders on the felony charge of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser. His apartment is in Burien, near the area where the lasers originated. According to the Seattle Times, Saunders told police he was “pointing the light in multiple directions outside a party and may have layered a plane.” From KOMOnews and the Seattle Times.
UPDATE #2: A March 25 2009 AP story stated that Saunders had been released with no charges filed against him. The story also noted that a laser was aimed at an Alaska Airlines flight landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The source of the laser was “near the source of previous laser reports.” From SignOnSanDiego quoting KOMO television.