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US: UPDATED - Man kills himself before being sentenced for aiming laser at helicopter

A Utah man killed himself September 17 2009, shortly before being sentenced for aiming a laser at a Utah National Guard helicopter.

On February 19 2009, Joshua Don Park allegedly pointed a green laser beam two times at the Apache helicopter as it was flying over the Bluffdale area, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. Pilot Ken Samson said “It was strong enough that it illuminated my window, but not the entire cabin.” According to Samson, the laser was brighter than a laser pen, but was not a “military-grade” laser.

The air crew notified the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office of the approximate location. A deputy went door to door. When they encountered Park, the 30-year-old said he had a laser pointer to play with his cats. Park admitted that he had shined a laser at the aircraft.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Park “believed that the helicopter was way too far away for it to make an impact or even see [sic]”

Park was charged on March 11 2009 with one count of interference with the operation of an aircraft. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

From KSL.com (Feb 25 arrest report, March 11 charge) and Deseret News

UPDATED - August 31 2017: A National Guard pilot told the South Valley Journal that Park committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced. Park died September 17 2009, according to a September 20 obituary in the Deseret News which included this photo:

Joshua Don Park laser

The South Valley Journal article implied that Park’s suicide was linked to the laser incident, and that it changed how the National Guard reacted to laser incidents. The article stated “Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences.”