A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.
The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”
He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5
In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.
The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.
He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.
From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.
On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.
Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.
At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.
Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”
In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”
From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.
Connor Grant Brown
Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.
According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]
The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”
The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”
A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.
At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”
After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”
From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
When deputies arrived, they told Brandon J. Neeser to show his hands. Neeser pointed the laser device at the deputies. They saw it was not connected to a gun so they did not take defensive action. The deputies arrested Neeser, who told them he did not know it was illegal and he “thought it would be funny” to aim at the helicopter because they were aiming a light at him.
Neeser faces two felony counts of unlawful discharge of a laser.
From MyFoxSpokane and KREM
During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.
Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.
His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.
The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”
Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”
Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”
From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.
From the Winnipeg Sun
The “Star Shower” laser projector, sold for $40 in stores including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS during the 2015 Christmas season. Details on the potential hazard are here.
On December 3 2015, a commercial airplane at 13,000 feet altitude reported being illuminated by what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.” The light was traced to a home 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A pilot who was not involved told CBSDFW that likely the homeowner was asked to re-aim or remove the display, to prevent beams from going in the air. According to the news station, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said was the first case they had heard of, involving holiday laser lights.
However, NBC Los Angeles reported on an earlier incident. On November 18 2015, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sent a “distress call” to Sacramento police after being illuminated with laser light. A homeowner was advised to be more careful with the beam location. (It is not known why the FAA was not aware of this earlier incident.) Here is the NBC Los Angeles video:
On December 6 2015, three aircraft reported laser lights which were traced to a holiday display at at home three miles from Kansas City International airport. The homeowner told police he had “no idea he was endangering the public”
From CBSDFW, NBC Los Angeles, KSHB Kansas City. For much more information on the device and its potential hazards, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.
Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.
The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.
The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”
Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.
Austin Lawrence Siferd
According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.
From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com
UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.
The contest took place on July 7 2015. One of the aircraft was a Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ground officers arrested Rolando Espinoza, 22, and Shannan Winemiller, 21. Espinoza told deputies “he thought he heard that it’s illegal to point lasers at airplanes, but he wasn’t sure at the time.” Each man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third degree felony in Florida.
From January 1 to July 7 2015, there were 47 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FBI in Central and Southwest Florida. Sixteen of these were in the Orlando area.
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller
From the Orlando Sentinel
US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.
The appeals court noted that, prior to the March 2013 laser incident, a friend of Gardenhire said that shining a laser beam into another person’s eye could lead to blindness. The appeals court then went on to say that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft…. That one knows that the laser is dangerous when pointed directly in a person’s eyes does not mean that one knows about the beam’s ability to expand and refract, rendering it particularly hazardous for pilots in an aircraft miles away, or that the danger is heightened at nighttime because the pilot’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.”
The court specifically referred to the lack of any notice, label or other information regarding the risk of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft: “Gardenhire heeded the only warning he was given—not to shine the laser directly in anyone’s eyes—and he was not immediately alerted to any additional risks he was creating by aiming the beam at an aircraft.”
On August 25 2014, a police helicopter searching for a violent offender was continually blinded by a green laser beam. The pilot took evasive action and “was under immediate distress.”
According to Moore’s lawyer, Moore had been outside with his dog, playing with the laser, when he decided to aim at the helicopter: “He didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.”
When ground officers, directed by the helicopter pilot, arrived at Moore’s home, he said he was “stupid” and “an idiot” for aiming at the helicopter.
Moore faced up to three years in jail and up to AUS $36,000 maximum fine. The judge said “the risk of damage was huge” and that Moore “should be grateful this offence was dealt with in this court” [instead of jail].
From the Mandurah Mail
The aircraft was on patrol at 2:35 am, at about 1700 to 2000 feet altitude, looking for impaired drivers, when it was illuminated by a laser beam. The pilot was able to use infrared imaging to see Huffman, standing outside of a mobile home. Officers on the ground said Huffman initially denied having a laser pointer, then he suggested the pilots mistook it for a flashlight. He said he was not aware the plane was a State Patrol aircraft.
Huffman lives with his grandparents. His grandfather told Q13 Fox News that Aaron was ““playing with a toy flashlight and that’s exactly what it was — it was a toy flashlight. Just one with, what do you call it, a laser beam? Well, now I can understand it since 9/11, but I’m 60 years old, I can understand it. I think ahead. He’s 20 something years old. He don’t think ahead.”
In the comments section of a News Tribute story about Huffman’s arrest, a commenter named Heather Huffman wrote “He has not done this before the laser wasn’t even $7 to buy had no warning label and he didn’t even know it would reach that far.”
Click to read more...
UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack
Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.
The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.
Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.
At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."
During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."
From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star
On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.
Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.
Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”
The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.
Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.
From the Worksop Guardian
Seventeen-year-old Daniel Castillo first pointed the laser at an aircraft coming into to land at Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to find the source. Castillo then aimed three times at the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to his location where he was arrested.
The youth told WZVN TV that he was playing with the laser and did not mean any harm. His uncle said that Castillo did not know it was wrong: “It’s not like it was intentional to hurt someone, he didn’t know the consequence.”
A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division said that laser illuminations can be “very distracting and devastating... All of our crews have been hit with lasers at one point or another. It’s just getting worse and worse.”
From WZVN ABC-7
According to Brundage’s lawyer, the teen wanted to see if the laser light could reach the CMPD helicopter. It did; Brundage told his parents and they called police. His lawyer says the youth is a “really good kid who made a really dumb decision” and is “ready to face up to” prosecution.
Smith Hayden Brundage
The FBI joined the local police department in investigating the incident. The federal agency has not decided whether to file federal charges.
According to the FAA, there were 34 laser shining incidents to date in 2014, in North Carolina; nine of these occurred in the Charlotte area.
From WFMY News 2, Time Warner Cable News and WSOC-TV
James McDonald told arresting officers that the noise had been bothering him. He apologized, saying that he did not know that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal.
He was charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.
From the Sun Sentinel
Jasiel Medina-Quintana told deputies he was playing in his backyard and did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. A neighbor interviewed by WKMG said the teen shouldn’t have been arrested: “I buy them [laser pointers] for my kids all the time.... What are they going to do? Arrest every kid who has a laser pointer?” asked Joanne King.
Medina-Quintana was booked into the Osceola County jail and was later released into his mother’s custody.
This incident comes less than a month after another Orlando-area teen was arrested on June 7 for the same offense.
According to police, green laser light hit the cockpit window around four times, shining for several seconds each time. The crew notified ground officers who found Michael James Saavedra, 22, and Dylan James Demone, 23, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.
Saavedra (left) and Demone leave federal court after their May 21 2014 hearing
Click to read more...
Saavedra told an officer that he aimed his laser at the helicopter. The police report said “Mr. Saavedra did not intend to harm anyone, nor was he aware it was illegal.”
On December 30 2012, an AirTran pilot reported that a green light was in his cockpit as he flew about 10 miles west of Palm Beach International Airport. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also affected by the light.
Fischer was located by ground officers, who reported that the man told them “he didn’t think it was serious and he was just being dumb.”
Michael R. Fischer
On April 18 2014, Fischer pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of pointing a laser at an aircraft. At that time, prosecutors said he could face a six-month sentence according to a story in the Sun Sentinel. It is not known why Fischer pleaded guilty on May 21 2014, although it may have been a plea bargain to further reduce his sentence.
Original arrest story, Jan 2 2013 from WPBF. Guilty plea story, May 21/22 2014 from the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. Update information below from a phone conversation, July 31 2014.
UPDATE -- July 31 2014: Fischer told LaserPointerSafety.com that he was sentenced July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, to two years probation and 50 hours of community service. He said, “What kept me out of jail was not having a [prior criminal] background. “ Fischer described his guilty plea as part of an agreement that helped to reduce the sentence. He said aiming the laser, which he bought for $5 from Amazon.com, at an airplane was “the worst mistake of my life. Now I am a convicted felon.”
In addition, the FAA is considering civil charges against him, for interfering with a flight crew. The fine would be up to $11,000 per violation.
According to Fischer, up until his arrest, he was unaware that lasing aircraft was hazardous or illegal. He urged that laser labels, product packaging, and marketing materials should be required to warn users against aiming at aircraft. His warning for others was “Don’t think you’re not going to get caught, because if you do it you’re going to get caught.”
Finally, Fischer said “Please let people know I would like to apologize to the pilots, the airline, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office.”
(Note: Fischer expressed similar sentiments in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, posted July 31 2014.)
On January 20 2014, a National Police Air Service helicopter was at 1500 feet altitude, searching for a missing person. Gavin Hoskins was "playing" with the laser, aiming it first at rooftops and then aiming 3-4 times at the helicopter. He did not think the laser had the range to reach the aircraft, which broke off the search to track Hoskins.
According to the prosecutor, “it does not appear that the pilot on this occasion was distracted.”
When arrested, Hoskins told police that the was sorry and had been "stupid" to use the laser pen, which was still in his pocket.
The laser had been purchased in Bulgaria for his young daughter, Haskins said to police.
At trial, Hoskins admitted recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. His lawyer said “it was not a deliberate act to endanger the pilot of the helicopter.”
The judge called Hoskin's actions "stupid and potentially extremely dangerous" and noted that a number of recent helicopter crashes have resulted in "destruction and death."
Hoskins, a security guard, lost his job -- apparently due to negative publicity surrounding the case.
From BBC News and the Western Daily Press.
Carl Floyd said “I was freaking out. At first, I didn't know what was going on, then they told me what was going on and I first I denied it because I was nervous. It was 100 percent accident, not intentional, to hit an aircraft or put anybody else in danger.”
The helicopter pilot said he was hit three or four times by the green laser light, and that he doesn’t believe it was an accident.
Floyd’s case will go to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him on federal charges with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
A map of the Tulsa area showing recent (2013) laser incidents
From NewsOn6.com and Tulsa World
UPDATED November 13 2014 - A federal jury deadlocked in July 2014. During the trial, Floyd said he was aiming at objects such as a cell tower, a mailbox and a tree, and he did not knowingly illuminate the helicopter. Just before a second trial in November, he made a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty; saying he “knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the flight path of a helicopter that I was aware was flying nearby.” He said he had suffered severe injuries in a July 21 2014 motorcycle accident. The prosecution agreed that in light of his medical condition, a probationary sentence be imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for February 20 2015. From the Tulsa World.
On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen here.
While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.
The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.
Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.
At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.
From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online
Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.
In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.
Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”
His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
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
From CBS Sacramento
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.
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
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.
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.
He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.
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.
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...
UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a 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...
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The “A” marks the location of the incident.
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler
Click to read more...
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.
As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight
From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.
On July 20 2012, the Polair 61 helicopter was patrolling when it was hit by the laser beam. The pilot took evasive action. The crew was able to identify the source. Ground crews arrested 29-year-old Patricia Giguere and 31-year-old Clemens Trauttmansdorff. They first denied having a laser, then eventually surrendered to police.
Patricia Giguere demonstrates how she aimed the laser from her porch
In an interview, Giguere said she and Trauttmansdorff had bought the laser in Bali. They did not think the beam could reach the helicopter. Giguere was in Australia on a partner provisional visa. She said the conviction could jeopardize her chances of staying in the country.
News reports gave conflicting information on the frequency of laser incidents in the area. A Police Air Wing pilot said “laser attacks took place at least twice a week, and sometimes up to five times a night.” However, the Rockingham Police officer-in-charge said laser incidents “don’t happen very often.”
From the West Australian and InMyCommunity.com
On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”
Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.
Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”
From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise
The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.
Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.
Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.
From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.
Gary Don Carroll
UPDATED — On December 17 2014, Gary Don Carroll was arrested for leaving the scene of a fatal crash that occurred on February 22 2014. A 32-year-old man, Eric Wayne Pope of Lakeland, Florida, was killed while riding his bicycle with reflective vest and lights. Analysis of paint chips, completed December 15, pointed to Carroll’s car as being involved. Carroll was also charged with tampering with evidence, for having his truck’s hood and headlight replaced. Carroll has “an extensive criminal arrest history which includes six felony, four misdemeanor, six unknown level arrests, and two failures to appear. He has been in the Polk County jail 10 times before his current arrest.” From the Daily Ridge
The pilot located the house and called in ground units. While police were talking to a woman, Tyler John Pennywitt, 40, was seen running through the house. He was arrested while hiding in the shower.
Pennywitt said he had pointed a laser at aircraft “more than a dozen times” but that he did not know the laser could reach to the aircraft. While he was arrested for a Florida felony, misuse of a laser device on an aircraft, he could also face federal criminal charges.
Tyler John Pennywitt
Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.
As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.
The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”
When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”
LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...
Irwin’s barrister said the incident, which was deliberate targeting of the aircraft, occurred due to “sheer stupidity and ignorance”. During his arrest, Irwin told the police he did not know that it was illegal to aim at aircraft.
During the trial, the judge noted that Irwin was “lucky to have escaped jail”. Due to how the charges were brought, Irwin did not face a jail term or a custodial sentence.
From Highland Radio and BBC News Foyle & West
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).
The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.
Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.
Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."
From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.
He was sentenced to 15 hours community service work. He had faced a maximum penalty of CDN $100,000 and up to five years in prison.
Friesen told the court he was testing the range of the laser and did not realize that aiming at a helicopter could be dangerous. The judge agreed, saying “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.”
From the Winnipeg Sun. The original March 2011 story in LaserPointerSafety.com is here.
Glenn Stephen Hansen
Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.
Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).
Click to read more...
The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”
The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.
From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Pilot Paul Maddox told Bristol Magistrates’ Court that the light lasted about 15 seconds. An observer crew member said “the shafts of light were moving around the cockpit, restricting me from my task.” They were able to locate Bowering on the ground, where he was arrested. He told officers he had borrowed the laser pen and did not realize the beam would reach to the helicopter. According to his lawyer, Bowering was aware that lasing aircraft was illegal.
From This Is Bristol
Update April 10 2012: Bowering avoided jail “by a whisker” according to the judge, who sentenced him to a 12-month community order. He must attend a Thinking and Skills course, has a 90-day curfew between 9 pm and 6:30 am, and has to repay £200 in court costs. The judge said Bowering had been using the laser to play with his dogs, when he aimed it into the air. The initial illumination of the helicopter was an accident, but then it was repeated, the judge found. The pilot told the court that he had “temporary black spots” in his vision which almost caused him to stray into Bristol Airport’s airspace, which could have caused the diversion of a commercial flight that was on approach. From the Guardian
Late in the evening of September 7 2011, 21-year-olds Alex Cox and Luke Fortune aimed a green laser at an air ambulance trying to land in Calne. The men disagreed about whether the laser could reach the helicopter. Cox thought it would; Fortune thought it would not. In court testimony, the men also disagreed about which one of them aimed at the helicopter.
The pilot tried three times to land but could not due to the laser interference. An ambulance was called to pick up the patient, a man in his 70’s suffering a heart attack. It took 25 minutes to reach the Great Western Hospital in Swindon by road; it would have been 10 minutes by air. According to the ambulance service, it was “unlikely” that the helicopter would have been able to reach the hospital in time to save the man.
Cox and Fortune pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. They told the court their actions were stupid and very dangerous, and that they were sorry.
A Daily Mail article about the case has a sidebar listing four “laser pen pests” who received sentences from four to eight months, in cases ranging over the April-November 2011 timeframe.
From the Daily Mail. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item about the incident, from September 2011, is here.
At his sentencing on February 28 2012, Chang said, “I didn't do that deliberately, it was totally reckless behavior and I didn't realize the serious consequences at all.” He had previously used a laser pointer in his work in Taiwan as a tour guide. The judge agreed the act was not malicious but said it was “extremely dangerous” and Chang had to receive a prison sentence. The judge referred to four similar Australian court cases. She said three offenders were given jail terms and two received suspended sentences.
On a charge of threatening safety of an aircraft, Chang was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended on condition of paying AUD $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. On a charge of pointing a laser in public, Chang received four months prison; this was also suspended. He was also ordered to pay court costs; the amount was not specified in news articles.
Chang said he expects to leave Australia in April. He said he was grateful for the suspended sentence, thanking the judge and the Australian government.
From The Australian and the Daily Telegraph. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story is here.
The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.
From Bedfordshire On Sunday
Christopher Bryan Willingham, of Virginia Beach, said at a press conference after his guilty plea that “It was reckless disregard of the safety. I was unaware of the potential hazards and actually what it looks like to pilots. It emits a lot of light.” He will be sentenced May 18. Willingham could receive 20 years in prison.
Christopher Bryan Willingham
At the press conference, the commander of nearby Naval Air Station Oceana said they are frustrated with laser incidents. There were 13 reports of lasers being used near the base in 2011, plus four reports between January 1 and 25, 2012.
From the Associated Press via the Washington Post, and a detailed press release from the FBI. The “Statement of Facts” in the case, as filed in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia, is here.
UPDATE May 19 2012: On May 18, Willingham was fined $5,000 and was sentenced in federal court to five years probation. From WSET, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, and PilotOnline.com.
The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.
On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.
Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)
From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.
UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
Jorge Garcia, charged with one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, causing injury.
Bradley Raymond Walker
The laser continued to shine on the helicopter. The other deputy reported the laser location to ground units, who arrested Walker. According to the arrest report, when asked why he did it, Walker said he was “just being stupid” and apologized. He was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device.
From 10News and the CCSO arrest report
Local officials were upset. A Fife councillor said “It’s disturbing. Some action should have been taken against the individual and I will be making enquiries…” The local member of Scottish Parliament said she found it “absolutely astounding” that the man was not charged with a serious offense.
From Deadline News
The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.
Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.
From Kent Online
His lawyer successfully argued that a conviction put Burton’s career plans at risk, as well as his application for New Zealand residency. The judge agreed, stating that the consequences for Burton outweighed the seriousness of the charges. Charges were dropped on October 25 2011.
From Auckland Now. LaserPointerSafety.com previously reported on Burton’s case on September 17 2011.
The family came forward after police asked for the public’s assistance in finding the source of the beam. The family said they had just bought the laser pointer, and one of the younger children was pointing it into the sky. The said there was no intent to cause a problem and they now know better.
Because there was no criminal intent, no charges were brought.
From the Barrie Examiner. The paper also carried an earlier article describing the incident and how police were looking for the laser source.
Daniel Abraham Garcia
Daniel Abraham Garcia, 24, was charged with suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft, a felony. Garcia told police he was “messing around” and did not know that pointing at an aircraft was illegal.
From the Orange County Register, Silicon Valley Mercury News, and KABC News
The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.
The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a photo gallery at Altapress.ru.
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.
Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).Click to read more...
Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.
On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.
A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”
From This Is The West Country
UPDATE October 19 2011: Webster was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with a two-year supervision order. He avoided jail because he was the sole caregiver for his 16-year-old son.
The sentencing judge said “The message should go out that people tempted to target helicopters in this idiotic and dangerous way should expect a custodial sentence. It’s absurd that these completely pointless toys are used to distract and disable helicopters engaged in the task of serious public good. You’re very lucky that some serious accident didn’t happen as a result of your action. You’re not going to jail by only the thinnest skin of your teeth. I don’t see why your son – in a very difficult family situation – should have that done as a result of your stupidity.” From This Is The West Country.
In December 2010, James Paul Burton aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police said Burton -- 19 at the time -- admitted the act and said he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. (The Auckland Now story did not say how the incident affected the pilot or the flight.)
On September 16 2011, Burton’s lawyer told the court the act was done stupidly without thinking, after drinking with friends. She asked that Burton be discharged without conviction due to his age and future career plans. In 2007, Burton had arrived in New Zealand with his mother and sister, and all three are applying for residency. A conviction would affect his residency and his ability to find work and travel overseas. In turn, those restrictions could impact his ability to complete his studies in marine biology.
New Zealand does have a seven-year “clean slate” law, but his lawyer argued that Burton needed to complete his studies, apply for residency and find work before 2018.
From Auckland Now
UPDATE OCTOBER 27 2011: The judge agreed with Burton’s lawyer, that the consequences for Burton’s career and residency application outweighed the seriousness of his offense. The charges were dropped. More details are in an October 27 story in Auckland Now.
McDonnell-Jones admitted aiming the laser outside but said he did not see the helicopter. The pen was found hidden under a baby’s mattress in the man’s home.
From the South Wales Argus
According to police spokeswoman Sara Faden, the LAPD helicopter pilots observed “a green laser light shining on them and at that time they requested additional ground units to come to the scene. They observed a vehicle with two occupants and they found the laser that was shined on the airship and they were both taken into custody."Click to read more...
According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.
From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times
His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”
From the Calgary Herald
UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.
In a related story, Russia Today has posted a video showing what it looks like to be in an aircraft during a laser illumination:
Frame showing point of maximum dazzle when a laser beam hits the aircraft’s cockpit window. Click to see the YouTube video.
From UPI, and from Russia Today via YouTube
UPDATE July 28 2011: Bloomberg quotes news agency RIA Novosti as saying a suspect was caught on July 27. The 26-year-old told police “he couldn’t even imagine that his actions could cause a plane to crash.” The news agency says the suspect was 40 kilometers from the airport on Kosygin (Kosygina) Street in western Moscow.
The map shows the suspect’s location (A) in relation to Domodedovo Airport (B)
The incident will be reported to the FAA laser database. There is no word of any additional charges that might be brought against the boy.
When arrested, Anthony Gaffney, 25, told gardai that he did not realize the laser hazard: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.
He was charged with “intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another”. During the two-day trial, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Patricia Ryan instructed the jury that the State’s case was not that Gaffney acted intentionally, but that he acted recklessly. She then read the legal definition: “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”
The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.
From BreakingNews.ie (before the verdict), and from Herald.ie and RTÉ (after the verdict)
The arrest site is about 5 miles east of Midway Airport:
From the Chicago Tribune. Thanks to Joanna Skubish for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE, MARCH 19 2011: The aircraft was a Southwest Airlines flight from San Francisco, with 137 passengers and a crew of five, that was landing at Midway. Police arrested Shania Smith, 21, and Elvin Slater, 23. Smith had just met Slater for the first time earlier that day. Smith said “I don’t know how it got in my car”, and that the first time she saw it was during the arrest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Slater’s uncle said He's a good kid. He just didn't know what he was doing.” Both Smith and Slater were charged with “discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and discharging a laser at an aircraft”, which are misdemeanors.
Google Street View of the intersection where the arrest took place,
looking west towards Midway Airport
From an updated Chicago Tribune article
UPDATE, APRIL 1 2011: Smith pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and received a 30-day jail sentence, 18 months probation, and one month in a sheriff’s work program. More information is here.
When arrested, he admitted to his actions and handed the laser pointer to police. He had originally been charged with a felony (interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser), but on March 16 2011 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, attempted interfering with operation of an aircraft. He told the court “I really do apologize for what happened. I didn't understand (that) what I did would have that effect."
Lyman was sentenced to the two days he served in jail after his arrest.
From the Columbus Dispatch
Sheldon Friesen, 26, faces provincial charges of assault with a weapon, and possible federal charges with a maximum penalty of a CDN $100,000 fine and/or five years in prison.
When asked why he aimed at an aircraft, Friesen said “Just to see the distance. You point it up into the sky and see the beam go forever. I don’t know how far forever is, so I see something in the sky that’s worth reflecting, well why not? .... It was supposed to be for simple entertainment rather than having to cause someone danger like that.”
It took only about five minutes from the time he first aimed at the helicopter, to his arrest by three ground-based units.
Just before his arrest, Sheldon Friesen demonstrates to police officers his laser pointer (green glow at bottom center).
From the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, and Global News/Global Winnipeg
UPDATE, May 1 2012: Friesen pleaded guilty to directing a bright light source at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 15 hours community service. The judge agreed that he did not realize the danger: “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.” From the Winnipeg Sun.
One year probation, 140 hours of community service --- and cannot own a laser pointer
Michael Anthony Fowler of Silver Springs Shores was arrested Dec. 2 2010 after a “bluish laser light” illuminated a Marion County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ocala.com quoted him as saying “I didn’t even think the laser pointer could reach that far.” Fowler told the news site that he was the second person in Florida history to be charged with that offense, after Frank Newton Anderson.
From Ocala.com and Gainesville.com
The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“
Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.
The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)
From 3TV (azfamily.com)
York police said there have been four incidents so far in 2011, and more than 12 in 2010.
On Feb. 18 they put out a press release reminding parents that laser pointers are not a toy, and that charges can be brought for illuminating civilian and police aircraft. The charges include:
- Projection of a bright light source at an aircraft;
- Endangering the safety of an aircraft;
- Obstructing police;
- Mischief endangering life and;
- Assaulting police.
A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”
The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.
NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.
22-year-old Shane Ramsay and 20-year-old Darryl Hodgkinson said they bought the green pointer for £20 and aimed it at the police helicopter “for a laugh”. Their attorney said the two men “had no idea what they did could potentially endanger the pilot’s eyesight.” A local police sergeant was quoted as saying “This his kind of stupidity is increasing in the aviation world. It is reckless and foolhardy and those who do so will be arrested and brought before the courts.”
From SWNS.com News Service
The club said the light was “installed at an angle” which they were told would not be a problem for aircraft. An FAA official said that incidents like this had the potential to cause a problem such as the co-pilot having to complete a landing.
Location of the spotlight on the Bombshells roof. Video still from KDFW Fox 4.
Location of Bombshells, relative to the Dallas Love Field approach. Arrow points to a passing jet. Video still from KDFW Fox 4.
From KDFW Fox 4, Dallas-Fort Worth. Feb. 2011 note: The club may have changed its name since the incident, to “Dallas Cabaret”.
The Calgary Police Service’s Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWC), was on patrol when hit by a green beam at 10:45 pm. The crew then put on protective glasses and began a 30-minute search during which they were hit two more times. During the incident, one runway was closed by the Calgary Airport Authority, as a safety precaution.
Police tracked the beam to McConnell’s home about 10 km (6 mi) away, arrested him and seized what they describe as a “high-powered laser”. McConnell claimed it was an accident: “I was playing with it inside the house and it hit a mirror. It’s not like I was inside pointing it at them. It’s pure coincidence.”
After the incident, the helicopter crew was grounded pending the results of eye tests to determine whether their vision was damaged.
From CBC News, the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald
UPDATE May 31 2011: The Calgary Sun has a short article about initial judicial proceedings against McConnell. The trial phase should begin shortly. From the Calgary Sun.
UPDATE 2 June 19 2012: On June 18 2012, McConnell pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of mischief causing damage to property, and to projecting a bright light at an aircraft to cause a hazard under the Aeronautics Act.
He received a six month conditional sentence followed by six months of probation. The first two months of the conditional term will be under house arrest; the remaining four months he will have a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. He also must complete 25 hours of community service and undergo counseling. Finally, he will not be allowed to possess laser pointers. Both McConnell’s lawyer and the crown prosecutor agreed that the sentencing conditions were an adequate punishment.
According to his lawyer, McConnell did not realize the seriousness of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He said the incident was due to “basically stupid curiosity.” From the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.
20-year-old Nicholas Paul Gregory told police he had aimed at the aircraft, but “he did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane.” At trial, his defense lawyer said Gregory had no intent to harm anyone: “He is still shocked at his own stupidity and the consequences of his own stupidity.”
Gregory could have received a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
From the Brisbane Times
The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”
From the New Zealand Herald
Irfan Bozan, a student from Turkey, pointed the laser at aircraft and passing cars.
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