A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.
A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”
From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press
The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.
In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
From The Daily Bulletin
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.
Evans, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, worked as a security guard in a medical clinic. Workers at the clinic told FBI agents that Evans had laser pointers of different colors and sometimes aimed them at employees.
On October 27 2015, Evans stood outside the clinic and lit up a WOAI-TV news helicopter three times with a green laser:
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer
The laser beam goes directly into the cockpit
The helicopter pilot was able to help ground officers find Evans’ location. Evans initially denied his involvement to investigating FBI agents. After questioning with a polygraph, Evans said he did hit the helicopter and in fact had previously aimed lasers at other aircraft as well.
Evans will be sentenced December 12. He could receive up to five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000.
This is the second guilty plea in Texas this month. Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.
From the Hastings Tribune, Houston Chronicle and News4SanAntonio
The incident happened August 25 2016 in Mission, Texas. The pilot’s vision was temporarily impaired as the laser light lit up the cockpit. The pilot directed ground officers to a home, where Aaron Caceres, 27, and his brother Francisco Caceres, 24, confessed to the laser misuse.
Aaron (27) and Francisco (24) Caceres
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.
The helicopter was lased twice while in the air, and a third time when it landed. Officers traced the laser to Emily Ann Hunter. She was charged with illumination of an aircraft, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $1,000.
Emily Ann Hunter
From BBC News
[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]
One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.
WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.
From WNBC Chopper 4
According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “
Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.
The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.
Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)
About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video
Scott Christopher Brown was given was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and costs of £85 by North Lincolnshire magistrates.
(For non-U.K. readers, “a conditional discharge is a sentence vitiating the finding of guilt in which the offender receives no punishment provided that, in a period set by the court [not more than three years], no further offence is committed.” In 2008, about 6% of sentences were conditional discharges.)
From the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Wikipedia page on Discharge (sentence)
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.
Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, was also charged with possessing seven “cricket bombs,” made by filling an empty CO2 cartridge with gunpowder or flash powder, and attaching a fuse. If convicted, Sahagun would face an additional ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California press release dated July 21 2015
UPDATED - April 18 2016: Sahagun was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty on January 11 2016. From Bakersfield.com
Ground officers arrested Hines on four counts of endangerment: two for the police helicopter occupants, and two for the pilots of a fixed wing aircraft that was earlier hit by the laser.
The police pilots reported having headaches and seeing spots due to the laser exposure.
From the Foothills Focus
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
On August 25 2012, Rodriguez and his then-girlfriend repeatedly aimed a $8.00 green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. On March 10 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced on two charges; one with a penalty of 5 years in prison and the other with a 14-year sentence. (According to an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com, 8 of the 14 years were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.)
Rodriguez received 5 years in prison on a charge of aiming the laser at an aircraft (18 U.S.C. § 39A). This sentence was upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the panel, said that “the evidence showed that [Rodriguez] was attempting to see how far his laser would go at night - a stupid thing to do, yes, but there is no evidence that he was trying to interfere with the pilot.” Silverman added that this conviction “is designed for knuckleheads like him.”
But the 14-year sentence was overturned on the charge of willfully attempting to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft in reckless disregard for human safety (18 U.S.C. § 32). Silverman wrote that this conviction "is designed for both the Osama bin Ladens of the world - people trying to bring down a plane, intending to cause harm - and those who are aware that their actions are dangerous and could harm others, but just don't care…. The failure to recognize this distinction is to fail to appreciate that Congress saw fit to create two different crimes, one more serious than the other, for two different types of offenders.”
The judges referenced an April 30 2015 decision in United States v. Gardenhire. In this case, judges said that even if a person knows that a laser is dangerous when pointed directly at someone’s eyes, they may not know the “bright light” danger miles away to a pilot operating at nighttime.
Silverman noted that to uphold a reckless endangerment charge, prosecutors would have to show that “similarly situated defendants, or even average people, understand how laser beams operate.” Just aiming at a helicopter "is not, in and of itself, sufficient to allow a rational factfinder to conclude that Rodriguez acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life.”
From Courthouse News Service and Ars Technica. The full decision of the court is reprinted below, click on the “Read More…” link.
UPDATED November 4 2016: Rodriguez appealed the June 2015 5-year sentence. On October 17 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 5-year sentence. In an unpublished, unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel found the sentence was reasonable, even though advisory guidelines call for a sentence of only 21 to 27 months (1.75 to 2.25 years).
This was due to a number of factors: 1) “Rodriguez increased the dangerousness of the offense by striking the helicopter six or seven times,”, 2) minor children were involved, 3) he had a criminal history including gang involvement and 4) he was on probation when the laser illuminations occurred. From Ars Technica, Pasadena News Now and Courthouse News Service
Click to read more...
The incident happened February 10 2014. The helicopter was helping to locate an Alzheimer’s patient. The green laser light caused the pilot “to become momentarily dazed by the intense light and caused him to lose the abiity to see outside the cockpit’s windows.”
From Inland News Today
Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno
On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.
However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.
When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.
The incident happened August 4 2014.
From the Salisbury Journal
An officer in the helicopter, deputy Christopher Marchese said the crew was searching for a suspect when the cockpit was suddenly illuminated with a “big green light”. He was illuminated directly in his right eye, and another crew member was also hit in the eye. When the beam hit again, Marchese was able to see the laser beam and follow it down to Leiva’s location. Ground officers arrested Leiva, who admitted shining his laser at the helicopter.
Jonathan Alan Leiva
From January 1 to November 14 2014, there were 317 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida. 49 of these took place in Broward County, and 18 in adjacent Palm Beach County.
From WSFN News, Aviation News via the Sun Sentinel
In the new incident, the helicopter was conducting a search when it was hit numerous times at about 2:30 am. The unidentified man was arrested at his home in Meadow Springs, northeast of central Mandurah.
From the Mandurah Mail and ABC News
In August, Hunt pleaded guilty to acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, and to possession of cannabis. He was given a community order for 12 months, a supervision order, was fined £20, was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge, and he had his laser pen and cannabis forfeited.
From the Bolton News
The incident occurred July 14 2014, when a sheriff’s helicopter was struck “numerous times” by a laser beam. Ground officers were directed to the source of the beam, where the two brothers were arrested without incident.
A trial conference was set for November 12 2014.
From Valley News
Ahmed Maher Elhelw
Click to read more...
As a result of the laser strikes on the commercial aircraft, air traffic controllers rerouted “a handful” of flights. This is one of the first times that LaserPointerSafety.com is aware of commercial aircraft in the U.S. being redirected to avoid laser attacks.
A spokesperson for the Tampa airport was quoted as saying ““It’s really not a big deal for us to reroute flights at night. We do it all the time for different reasons. The passengers probably wouldn’t even know.”
Lee Gary Greenway
During his arrest, he apologized for his actions and called them “really stupid”, according to the judge at Greenway’s August 25 2014 hearing. Greenway pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. He was released on bail pending sentencing on September 8.
From the Wakefield Express
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
From Connect MidMissouri
UPDATED September 8 2016: Rogers pleaded guilty to one felony count. Prosecutors say the pilot sustained eye strain that lasted for hours. From KSNT.com
From The Star
On August 24 2013, as a DPS helicopter flew over Garland, a green laser light illuminated the cockpit. The crew identified three persons on the ground and sent officers. When confronted, the three men did not want to identify who did it, until they were told the helicopter had video of the incident and suspects. Chavez then confessed. He was arrested and the laser pointer was confiscated as evidence.
Chavez had been arrested just a few weeks earlier, on August 3 2013, on suspicion of drunken driving. (He was passed out in a car that had crashed into a pole. He told officers he had three 12-ounce beers earlier. He could not remember what city he had started driving from. When asked if his trouble remembering was because he was drunk, Chavez reportedly said “Probably.”)
He had served a four-month sentence in Lubbock, earlier in 2013, also for drunk driving.
From the Dallas Morning News
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
In February 2014, Sumpter was arrested after a police helicopter was hit by a green laser beam. He told the arresting officer that he was responsible. When the pilot arrived, wearing his flight suit, Sumpter asked him, “Were you the one in the helicopter?”
From the Tampa Bay Times
On June 5 2014, a green laser was pointed at a Tampa police helicopter. The crew radioed the laser location to ground officers, who found Bradley Alan Steffes, 29, of Brandon, FL. He told officers he was playing with the laser and pointing it at random objects. A search of his pickup truck revealed a laser pointer and the drug items.
The 18-county Tampa division of the FBI recorded 102 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013.
From the Tampa Bay Times
UPDATED June 27 2014: Steffes was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 26 2014. From the Tampa Bay Times
David Walter Fee, 22, was charged with aiming a powerful green laser pointer at Air 43, a CHP aircraft. The pilot suffered temporary blindness and the aircraft was forced to break away from investigating a burglary in progress. Also charged along with Fee was Andrew Zarate, 20, also of Fresno. The disposition of his case is not known.
Fee faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when sentenced.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Fresno Office, California Highway Patrol, and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.
From the Fresno Bee and the April 10 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about the indictment of Fee and Zarate.
UPDATED August 11 2014 - Zarate pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane. He was scheduled to be sentenced November 3 2014. Fee pleaded guilty to the same offense in June and was scheduled to be sentenced August 25 2014. From an August 11 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about Zarate’s guilty plea.
UPDATED September 29 2014 - Fee was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From KMJ Now.
UPDATED November 3 2014 - Zarate was sentenced to one year in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From Ars Technica and ABC30.
Scotland: Community service for ADHD man who lased police helicopter, 8 weeks before copter crashed into pub
The incident occurred on October 1 2013. The helicopter pilot turned the craft away from the beam, to avoid the light. Other crew used infrared cameras to track the perpetrator and direct ground officers to his location. The officers found a laser pen in the possession of Grant Jones, 24, and arrested him.
The same helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow on November 29 2013, killing all three on board plus seven persons on the ground. There is no linkage between Jones’ laser illumination and the crash 60 days later, which was caused by both engines flaming out.
Click to read more...
Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr.
The 25-year-old faces up to five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine if convicted.
From KEYE TV
UPDATED - July 7 2014: Ruedas entered a guilty plea in Federal court in Austin. No sentencing date has been set. Ruedas faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. From SFGate, KEYE TV and the Austin American-Statesman.
UPDATED - October 2 2014: Ruedas was sentenced to two years in prison, plus three years probation after his release. From KTBC and the Austin American-Statesman.
UPDATED - October 9 2014: Austin TV station FOX 7 obtained video from the AIR-1 helicopter, showing the Frbruary laser strike and the arrest. From MyFOXaustin.
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.”
As a result, the pilots of the Air-1 helicopter suffered flash blindness that lasted a few minutes, causing disorientation. The pilots were ultimately able to pinpoint the origin of the beams and, with the help of patrol deputies, identified Scott as a suspect.
Sentencing for Scott is set for July 21 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
On May 12 2014, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24, was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. An FBI special agent said ““Coleman and Rodriguez demonstrated outrageous and willful disregard for the safety of aviators, Air George’s patients, and the public.”
In imposing sentence, Judge Lawrence O’Neill considered the opinion of Dr. Leon McLin, a Senior Research Optometrist for the Air Force Research Laboratory who testified at trial, that the laser pointer that Coleman used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and, indirectly, death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference.
Judge O'Neill found the high‑powered laser pointer was a dangerous weapon, and referring to the potential for a crash resulting from the pilots’ impaired vision stated, "I physically shudder to think of what could have happened."
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Prior to this, the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident was four years, handed down in January 2010 to Jamie Allen Downie. For more information, see the page Sentences for laser offenses and click the tags on the left side to find jail terms of 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-24 months, 25-36 months, 37-48 months, and over 4 years.
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.
Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of Rodriguez’s sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
In addition, the government told the judge that “[s]entencing Rodriguez to a substantial prison term will send an important deterrent message that could not be more timely.”
The government stated at one point that Rodriguez should receive 20 years to life imprisonment based on its analysis, but they would be satisfied with 14 years.
Rodriguez’s lawyer countered that the guidelines had been misapplied and the sentence should be only 57 months (4 3/4 years). The lawyer contended that Rodriguez was in his backyard, playing with the laser to see how far it could go and he had no knowledge of laser/aircraft hazards.
Click to read more...
US: UPDATED - California man sentenced to 14 years for aiming 65 mW laser at Fresno police helicopter
The 14-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for lasing an aircraft, anywhere in the world. Rodriguez’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued that a term of 57 months (4 3/4 years) would be “harsh, but ... is arguably a just punishment.” The previous longest sentence was 4 years for Jamie Allen Downie, sentenced in January 2010.
Sergio Patrick Rodriguez
Federal sentencing guidelines take into account the crime itself as well as the defendant’s criminal history. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said at sentencing that Rodriguez was “a walking crime spree.” Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of the sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
A more detailed analysis of the 14-year sentence is here.
The Rodriguez case began August 25 2012 when a helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California was illuminated by a green laser. Fresno Police Department’s Air 1 was sent to investigate.
It was repeatedly and deliberately struck by the light. The beam was traced back to Rodriguez, now 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23. Pilots from both helicopters said the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.
The laser’s power was later measured as 65 milliwatts. This is 13 times the 5 mW limit for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. This 13x power increase leads to a 3.6 times increase in the distance at which Rodriguez’s laser was a hazard (see Note 1).
On January 26 2014, Craig Mather of Carlton (an eastern suburb of Nottingham) heard the helicopter and aimed a £20 laser pen at it. The pilot was distracted as he was attending a serious incident in Arnold, to the northwest of Carlton. Ground units were notified and went to Mather’s home.
Prosecutors said Mather told authorities that “the helicopter annoyed him, as it was always above his house, and wanted it to go away. He said he didn't know how far the laser went.”
In court, Mather admitted to the charge of directing or shining a light at a police helicopter, so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The crime is punishable by a fine. He was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
From the Nottingham Post
The incident occurred January 4 2014. No one was injured. Dorsett was arrested in El Paso and was charged with a violation of 18 USC 39A, aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
From WOAI, Statesman.com and a press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas
UPDATED - July 31 2014: Dorsett was convicted by a federal jury. Sentencing was scheduled for October 2 2014. He could receive up to five years in federal prison. From KVIA.com.
An FBI special agent who worked on the case said "I know a couple pilots that do have permanent injuries related to laser incidents because the intensity of the laser and the affects it has on parts on the eye."
From ABC15 and KVOA
US: Calif. man who "can't help himself from doing stupid things" sentenced to 21 months for lasing police helicopter
Clovis Man Sentenced For Aiming Laser At Sheriff Helicopter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, January 27, 2014
Docket #: 1:13-CR-108 LJO
FRESNO, Calif. — Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23, of Clovis, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
Mahaffey’s sentence follows his guilty plea last November. According to court documents, Mahaffey deliberately tracked and struck Eagle 1, a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, with a powerful red laser while the aircraft was assisting ground units on a call for a domestic disturbance. As a result, the pilot was distracted by the intense light and forced to break away from the call. The pilot reported the laser strikes to Air Traffic Control at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and, with the help of the Clovis Police Department, was able to locate the source of the laser and identify Mahaffey as the suspect. In pleading guilty, Mahaffey admitted he knew it was a crime to point the laser at an aircraft but stated he, “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”
Click to read more...
The incident occurred in Blacon, an area in Chester (20 miles south of Liverpool) on August 11 2012. The helicopter was able to trace the laser beam back to a person in a garden, later identified as Richard James Brooks.
Sentencing of Brooks was scheduled for February 12.
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
The helicopter crew led ground officers to the man’s home. He will be summonsed for causing fear with a laser or light to people in conveyances.
From the West Australian
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Ireland: Belfast man's laser could have caused "catastrophic and fatal" helicopter crash at 2011 MTV European Music Awards, judge rules
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 the Herald-Sun and Sky News
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.
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).
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.
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
From PE Bloggers
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...
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.
L-R: Peter Ospitale, Paul Word
L-R: Mary Grace, Marci Gomez
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 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.
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...
From the Tribune
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World
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
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.
Leaving the courtroom, Waistle put two fingers up (photo above) which the Daily Star’s headline called “defiant”.
From the Daily Star
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.
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.
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.
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.”
- 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...
The judge warned that “those who target aircraft in this dangerous and reckless way should expect to go to prison.”
Jackson’s lawyer said the laser was aimed at the helicopter for a total of 37 seconds, in flashes lasting 1-2 seconds each, over a 17-minute period.
According to the prosecutor, pilots are required to have an eye test after a laser incident, before being cleared to fly again. Jackson was ordered to pay £30 to cover the cost of the pilot’s eye test.
From SFGate.com and Catholic Online
UPDATED May 3 2013: The man was acquitted January 8 2013 in U.S. District Court . He wrote to LaserPointerSafety.com in May, asking that his name be removed from the above article, due to it causing difficulty when looking for work. We have removed his name and the link URLs out of courtesy, since he was acquitted. The acquittal judgment, with his name redacted, can be viewed here.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION from LaserPointerSafety.com: On May 3 2013, I spoke with the person; for convenience, I will call him "John Doe." The following is his account, based on his perspective.
On July 17 2012 he was on the phone. As he talked, he idly swung his 5 milliwatt green laser pointer back and forth in the sky. He was not aiming at anything, it was just on and swinging.
Later, a police officer came to him saying that a sheriff's department helicopter had said they saw a laser from his location. She asked if he had a laser. Doe said yes, and showed her how he had used it. She felt it was an accident and left. He did not have to surrender the laser.
In August, two FBI agents came to see him. An agent said, "You are being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as a threat to the United States."
He was charged with a federal felony in late October 2012. When it came to trial on January 8 2013, there were police officers, plus the two FBI agent, and federal prosecutor. They showed a ten-minute video from the helicopter. Doe said you could not see the beam, just a dot that looks like any other light on the ground, which at one point got brighter.
The trial lasted about three hours. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence, and he was formally acquitted.
Doe did say, "Definitely people should be very careful as these lasers are not toys, but It would be one thing if my intent was malicious and I had a very powerful laser. Then, calling this a felony and having a five-year penalty would be justified for a high powered laser. There needs to more public awareness on the issue.”
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
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.
Police said the action could have caused the helicopter to crash.
Two other cases that happened at about the same time are still in court.
From The Star (and a more detailed, earlier version from The Star)
A sheriff’s spokesperson said of the laser light beam “It’s not different, really, than if you were to shoot an officer.” He said the lasers can cause permanent eye injuries and can cause a crash.
Since January 2011, there were approximately six laser incidents in the county. No crew members were injured, according to the spokesperson.
From Rancho Bernardo Patch and 10News.com
The incident happened early in the morning of July 11 2012 in the backyard of a home in a suburb northwest of Omaha. As of July 16, no arrest had been made.
A police evidence technician displays the laser pointer that was confiscated from the Omaha man. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the laser emits red light.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said "We're also told he might have been doing this on prior occasions. And on those occasions, it involved planes flying into Eppley [Airfield]. We're going to be investigating those allegations."
From Fox 42 News, KETV 7 and the Omaha World-Herald
UPDATED April 24 2013: Michael A. Smith, 30, was convicted of the July 11 2012 lasing. Sentencing is scheduled for July 22 2013. More is at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
UPDATE 2, July 22 2013: Michael A. Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison 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.
At a hearing on June 11 2012, Tetich was fined £465 and his laser pen was ordered to be destroyed.
Such a spate of laserings is unusual, according to an Oklahoma City Police Department spokesperson: “It’s kind of rare that we would have this many all at one time.” Some commenters to a News9.com story speculated that the media attention given to the first two incidents may have triggered the second two.
From News9.now, the Norman Transcript, and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. For a full version of the press release, click the “Read More…” link below.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: It would be interesting for the police to question Sullivent, to find out if he was aware of, or influenced by, the media reports of the June 7 laser incidents.
Click to read more...
On August 9 2011, a three-person crew was patrolling over Crawley, West Sussex. The pilot testified that the crew was dazzled three times by “the sort of light that could only have been a laser. I have been subjected to a number of laser attacks.” Camera footage shown in court displayed only a small flash. Vadher’s attorney said that the flash could not be traced to any particular house. He said that even if the light had come from Vadher’s house, there was no evidence that any shining was intentional. Vadher said there was a light coming from his laptop, which was next to his open bedroom window.
After hearing both sides, the judge agreed there was no evidence of the crime, or that Vadher was the person who committed any crime.
Vader told the Crawley News that his life had been on hold since his arrest on a charge of directing a light at an aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot.
From This Is Sussex. The original arrest story from September 7 2011 is here.
From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
This was the ninth laser incident reported by the Pasadena police in 2012. A police statement indicated that the helicopter crew had protective eyewear, but was not wearing them when the laser illuminated the aircraft.
After the helicopter landed at the Pasadena Heliport, the officer was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital for evaluation. Police said the officer was “not seriously injured” and that there was no permanent damage.
From KABC, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Pasadena Sun
From the Kansas City Star
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
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.
From the La Cañada Valley Sun
The April 21 2012 incident happened in Uxbridge, 75 km northeast of Toronto. It was looking for vandals when struck by a laser numerous times over several minutes. The helicopter set down at a nearby police station, and the pilot was taken to a hospital. He was released with no apparent damage, but a police spokesperson said it could take several days for damage to emerge.
20-year-old Melissa Perry of Uxbridge was arrested, and charged with lessening the ability of a crew member to perform duties, interfering with the duties of a crew member, projecting a bright light at an aircraft, mischief endangering life, assault with a weapon and common nuisance. It is unclear from news reports whether Perry was associated with the vandals.
From DurhamRegion.com, Global Toronto and Canada.com
Analysis from LaserPointerSafety.com: If the laser is really Class 3A (less than 5 mW maximum power), the pilot’s eyes were unharmed. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance for a 5 mW laser with a tight 1 milliradian beam is 52 feet. This means that laser safety experts have concluded that no eye injury could occur past 52 feet. If the pilot was airborne, his eyes were likely much farther than 52 feet from the laser. (Global Toronto reported the helicopter was at 5000 feet, but that is very high for vandal surveillance; 500 feet is more reasonable.)
Plus, as explained on the Laser Safety Calculations page, there are additional factors that go into the NOHD. The result of these factors is that a 5 mW laser would have to be within 16.4 feet of a person’s eyes before there was a 50/50 chance of causing a minimally detectable eye injury. This is not opinion; this is scientific fact based on how the NOHD is derived.
UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: On September 21 2012, Perry pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Aviation Act by shining a bright light at an aircraft. She was fined $500. All other charges were dropped by the Crown. From DurhamRegion.com.
Christopher Paton repeatedly aimed a 40 milliwatt green laser at the aircraft, over a period of about 10 minutes. The light dazzled the pilot and crew, and the flight path was adjusted. The laser was recorded by an on-board camera, enabling Paton’s house in Castlemilk to be pinpointed. The helicopter had been was searching for two lost 4-year-olds in Toryglen. After the search was completed, ground officers were notified. They found Paton in his back garden, where he admitted using the laser and was arrested.
From BBC News
The arrest led to renewed calls for laser regulations in the U.K. (see related LaserPointerSafety.com news story).
From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
Before officers arrived, Standish dropped the laser into a drain. He denied the incident, but went to the Winsford Police Station the next day where he admitted aiming at the helicopter.
Standish was convicted of acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service. The laser pen was confiscated.
From the Police Oracle
On the evening of June 24 2010 the police helicopter was carrying out a search in the town centre when someone shining a laser pen in the direction of the aircraft distracted the pilot. The laser lit up the flight deck, dazzling the pilot and forcing him to remove a hand from the flight controls to shield his eyes. As he tried to maneuver the craft away from the light he was deliberately tracked.
The aircrew managed to direct local patrols to the origin of the light, where Jarome Tomlinson was arrested. He was later charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way that was likely to endanger an aircraft, contrary to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on April 15 2011.
Acting Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge of the Force Contact and Control Centre said: “This was a very dangerous thing to do and consequences could have been far more serious, but for the skills of the pilot. The crew were going about their daily job - protecting the public - when the light from the laser blinded the pilot. It is testament to his flying skills that he maintained control of the craft but it was an act that not only endangered the crew but also those below in Maidstone town centre.”
His Honour Judge Macdonald QC, passing sentence, said Tomlinson came from a good home with a good mother and had shown genuine remorse but that a suspended sentence wouldn't provide a deterrent to others.
Tomlinson will spend four months of his eight month sentence in prison.
From a Kent Police press release
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.
Ricky Kemp of Shirebrook caused a “minor irritation” to the pilot, the first time Kemp lased the helicopter. The pilot continued to an incident, but then was lased again by Kemp while returning to police headquarters. The pilot was able to identify Kemp’s location, and directed ground units who made an arrest.
Kemp pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people inside.
From This is Derbyshire
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.
From the Derry Journal
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 three will be arraigned in court on January 9.
There had been concern over local airspace due to a January 8 political event at Free State Stadium with over 100,000 persons in attendance. The laser incident appears to be unrelated to a temporary Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring general aviation and recreation pilots to file flight plans in advance.
From The New Age. According to a separate story in The New Age, this was only the second time that arrests have been made in South Africa for aiming lasers at aircraft. The first was in May 2010 during a World Cup event.
The 27-year-old native of Taiwan was charged with threatening the safety of aircraft and the possession of a laser pointer in a public space. He was interviewed through an interpreter and had to surrender his passport. A court date of January 24 was set.
From Mosman Daily and DailyTelegraph.com
UPDATE, January 23 2012 -- Yu-Wei Chang pleaded guilty to threatening the safety of an aircraft, and to possessing a laser pointer in a public place. Chang had previously used the pointer in his job in Taiwan, as a tour guide. His solicitor said Chang did not intend any harm. He did not know it was illegal to possess lasers in New South Wales or to aim at an aircraft. Chang did it due to “New Year’s Eve exuberance.” Chang will be sentenced on February 28. The judge said she needed to get more information about similar cases in Australia, and to consider options other than imprisonment. She did say “there will be some punishment.”
Chang after the guilty plea
UPDATE 2, February 28 2012 - Chang was sentenced to three months in prison on one charge, and four months on another charge. Both prison terms were suspended on condition of paying AUS $200 and entering into a 12-month good behavior bond. Details are here.
From Mosman Daily, 9News and DailyTelegraph.com
The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”
From the New Zealand Herald
On December 5 2011, a small single-engine plane was preparing to land at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. The pilot reported seeing a light aimed towards him (some sources say it was red, others say it was green). FAA officials informed Suffolk County police. The Suffolk Police helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser. They easily traced the laser back to its source, Smith’s home in St. James, NY. Ground units then moved in to arrest the 21-year-old. It took about an hour from the time of the FAA call to Smith’s arrest.
David Smith, arrested for lasing aircraft
Click to read more...
On December 9, Smith was charged with “obstructing governmental administration in the second degree”. Additional charges may be filed by the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force and perhaps the FAA and other governmental agencies.
US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours
Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.
On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.
In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”
From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
Click to read more...
In St Albans Magistrates Court, he received a conditional discharge of 12 months. If Baker does not commit any other offense in that time period, his conviction will be stricken from the criminal record. Baker also paid court costs of £85, and forfeited his laser pen.
From the Watford Observer and Wikipedia “Discharge” article, England and Wales section
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.
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
From the St Helens Star
UPDATE November 23 2011: Checkley pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. He was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police. From the St. Helens Reporter
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 man was charged with possession or use of a prohibited weapon without permit, and an act threatening the safety of an aircraft with a person on board. He was granted bail.
From 9News, ABC Sydney and NSW Police Force
The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.
The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport
From the Los Angeles Times
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
A Victoria Police spokesman said Melbourne has the highest number of incidents involving laser light, and “these incidents are occurring far too frequently….”
From The Age, Herald Sun and ABC News
UPDATE November 24 2011: Tam Nguyen pleaded guilty on November 24 2011. He was fined a total of AUD $3500. Details are in this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The three persons were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. They were held overnight. The teens were referred to the Youth Offending Team while the man received a caution.
From BBC News and the Daily Mail
The charges stem from an incident July 28 where Gable aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, temporarily flashblinding two officers on board.
From TMZ and Reuters
UPDATE August 26 2011: Gable pleaded not guilty to the charges at his August 26 arraignment. He was freed on $250,000 bail. His next court appearance will be September 8, at a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. From the Contra Costa Times
UPDATE December 8 2011: Gable pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. In return, other counts were dropped. At sentencing January 12 2012, prosecutors are expected to ask for a 10 day jail sentence plus 200 days on a work crew. See news item here.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
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...
Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.
From the Birmingham Mail
UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail
6 months for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter
The judge called Oliver a “dangerous idiot” for illuminating the helicopter “for a considerable amount of time.”
In addition to the 6-month laser pen sentence, Oliver received another 6 months in jail on an unrelated theft charge.
From the Shields Gazette, Chronicle Live and BBC News. See also the Shields Gazette June 21 2011 story about Oliver’s guilty plea, and LaserPointerSafety.com’s original news item about the June 6 incident.
At sentencing, the judge noted that although Quantrill was “a perfectly decent young man ... showing off your newly purchased laser pen to friends”, it was important to set an example: “Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison.”
From Chronicle Live
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)
This screenshot shows Stouder at the FBI press conference where he apologized to the pilots. The full video is at KSDK.com
The conference was held to bring attention to the potential dangers of lasing aircraft. The agent in charge and the U.S. assistant attorney both stressed that the next person to be charged may face much stronger penalties than Stouder did.
From stltoday.com. A video interview with the FBI agent-in-charge is available at Fox 2 Now.
Paresi, 20, faces university judicial board hearings with penalties that could include expulsion. He was also charged by University of Pittsburgh police with two felony counts of “causing or risking a catastrophe.” Finally, an FAA spokesperson said they will pursue civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
On July 17 2011, at midnight and again at 3 am, medical evacuation helicopters reported seeing green beams coming from the University’s “Cathedral of Learning” skyscraper. Police confronted a group of students leaving the building after the second laser incident. Parisi, 20, spoke privately to an officer and said that he was the one who had been using a laser pointer.
Parisi was also found to have a fake Virginia driver’s license. He was additionally charged by the police with carrying a false identification card.
The 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere. Photo by Flickr user bombnomnom (Anthony Velázquez) under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
UPDATED February 28 2012: Parisi is awaiting trial on two state felony counts of “risking a catastrophe”. He could be fined up to $15,000 and receive up to seven years in prison on each charge. In addition, he faces $11,000 in fines from the FAA on each count. His attorney was quoted as saying “My client is a good kid. He just made a mistake. He obviously regrets anything that happened that night.” From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service
Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.Click to read more...
Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.
The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.
The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:
Click to see the full video
From the Green Valley News
A police spokesman said there had been reports of green laser beams pointed at LAPD and news helicopters in the Glassell Park area, in the previous two weeks. There was no immediate indication whether the arrested man was responsible.
The four suspects, all in their 20’s, fled across the state border, pursued by police. Joy McElwain, Steven Springer and Brian C. Enlow were arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They have been charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing police. Jason A. Hill was arrested separately; charges in the laser incident will be brought against him shortly.
In addition to the state charges, authorities are considering also bringing federal charges.
From WLKY.com, the Courier-Journal.com, and WHAS11 News
In June, Phoenix’s police chief said incidents will be dealt with severely: “We’ll charge them with endangerment, aggravated assault, and interfering with a flight crew.”
“A” marks the arrest location, about 9 miles from Los Angeles International Airport
LaserPointerSafety.com initially reported this as a “sting” operation, based on an NBC LA report that “the LAPD ran a high-flying sting to pinpoint the location of their two attackers.” However, other news sources indicated that there was no pre-planned effort to draw out laser users. DailyBreeze.com quoted a police spokesman as saying that “a police helicopter on regular patrol was hit with a green laser, and the crew was able to pinpoint the general location of the beam.... A second flight crew that was replacing the first unit brought protective glasses with them based on the earlier reports. The second crew was soon hit with the same green laser, and reported to police on the ground the exact location of the laser.”
The LAPD is contacting the FBI. Additional state and federal charges may be filed.
From DailyBreeze.com, NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and KABC 7.
UPDATE July 28 2011: NoIR informs us that the glasses used were their “GlareShield” models. These were developed with input from LAPD pilots. More on laser protective eyewear for pilots is here.
UPDATE July 26 2012: Floyd Atkins was found guilty of one felony count of pointing laser beams at a helicopter. He will be sentenced August 3 and faces up to three years in prison. Alvaro Jimenez pleaded no contest to the same charge earlier in 2012. From MyNews3.
UPDATE November 1 2012: Floyd Atkins was sentenced on Nov. 1 to one year in county jail and two years probation. He also had to pay $200 in fines and fees. According to the deputy district attorney, Atkins “still doesn’t accept responsibility.” Alvarado Jimenez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation. From the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
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 21-year-old was convicted under the Radiation Protection Act. He received a suspended sentence with community service. A more severe sentence of 90 days was not imposed because the man had no previous criminal record.
From The Local
Arrested were Alvin Kang, 25; Jeremy A. Smith, 24; and Mark P. Lawrence, 25. Each man was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and aiming a laser pointer at an officer.
From UPI, Chicago Sun-Times and Examiner.com
A spokesperson said that under Coast Guard rules, an illuminated aircraft must abort the mission. Crew members are taken off flight duty for at least one day, and must be examined by a doctor before flying again. “This temporary loss of crew has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.”
Due to previous incidents in Ocean City, the police and a local merchants association had asked members voluntarily to not sell laser pointers. But the president of the association noted that full compliance would not be possible unless there was an official ban or regulation.
From the Press of Atlantic City, Cape May County Herald, and Ocean City Patch.
UPDATE, June 21 2011: Bouda pleaded guilty in municipal court for interference with transportation. He was fined $1000 and must perform 15 days of community service. If he successfully completes the community service, the fine could be reduced to $500. In addition, he faces civil penalties from the FAA. (It is unclear from the news story whether or not FAA has actually begin proceedings against Bouda.) From Shore News Today.
Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles
- August 26 2010: Ocean City officials discuss city-wide ban on laser pointers after summer incidents.
- November 22 2010: State senate bill 2430 is introduced in November 2010 to ban laser pointers above 1 milliwatt.
- June 8 2011: Man buys laser in Ocean City, points it at helicopter, and is almost immediately arrested.
- June 11 2011: Residents report harassment; voluntary sales ban is not working.
- June 24 2011: Unanimous vote on the initial measure to ban Ocean City laser pointer sales and possession.
- July 14 2011: Unanimous vote on the “second reading” to make the Ocean City ban official.
- April 16 2013: North Wildwood NJ bans sale and possession of laser pointers above 1 mW.
- August 20 2013: New Jersey state legislature passes bill to ban laser pointer sales above 1 mW; sends bill to Governor for signature.
- October 17 2013: Governor Chris Christie vetoes bill to ban laser pointer sales, saying the 1 mW power limit was “arbitrary” and there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 mW and the federal limit of 5 mW in New Jersey.
Earlier, on June 2, two 14-year-old boys lased the aircraft, which had been searching for criminal suspects near West Denton. The on-board observer said “... a green light filled the cockpit. For a few seconds I couldn’t see anything, all I could see was a green light. My sight was obliterated and I was dazzled.”
The pilot was forced to break off their search in order to find the laser perpetrators. They landed at a nearby airfield. The two teens were arrested and may charged with recklessly acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft.
From the Evening Chronicle
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
According to one news account, “the pilots’ night vision goggles went white and temporarily blinded them .... the deputies suffered irritation to their eyes.” According to another story, a deputy was hit in the eye with the laser beam. (It is not clear from the various news sources whether one or both deputies were wearing night vision goggles, and whether these were removed at some point during the event.)
Ground units were called to the location. A neighbor who saw the helicopter illuminating a house, and who saw multiple sheriff’s office cars speeding towards the house, looked outside and saw a green light: “I seen the laser flying around and we didn’t know what it was.” Officers found 29-year-old Michael Wayne Smith outside the house, “pointing an LED flashlight throughout the yard.” He was arrested and later charged with Public Order Crimes -- Pointing a Laser Light at a Pilot.
Michael Wayne Smith (Photo from Lee County Sheriff’s Office)
- A 16-year-old boy from Los Alamitos, for an incident in late April 2011, in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
- A 15-year-old boy from Pico Rivera, for an incident in December 2010, also in the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station area.
- A 25-year-old man from Maywood, for an incident in December 2010.
- A 25-year-old man from La Puente, for an incident in September 2010.
From 660 WORL, the Los Angeles Times and WalnutPatch
The arrest occurred one day after a commercial aircraft taking off from Sydney Airport reported being illuminated by laser light. Police had reports of green laser use in Bardwell Park, west of the airport, and tracked the use to the 27-year-old. His laser pointer was seized and tested, and found to be in the “prohibited weapon” category.
From the Herald Sun and a NSW Police Force press release
UPDATE, MAY 10 2011: Two men were arrested, 27-year-old Sergio Mitso Nagaoka and 21-year-old Lucas Fagundes Olhiara. They are Portuguese-speaking Brazilian citizens. Nagaoka was charged with using a prohibited weapon, and threatening the safety of an aircraft. Olhiara was charged with possessing a prohibited weapon without a permit. (Note: Some news reports transposed the 21-year-old’s name, writing it as “Lucas Olhiara Fagundes”. LaserPointerSafety.com does not know which version is correct.)
Update from the St. George and Sutherland Shire Leader
The man, 26-year-old Corey Blake Hubley, was playing with his cousin’s laser pointer by aiming it into the sky. When he realized he had pointed it at a helicopter, he turned off the pointer, according to Hubley’s account. His cousin then told him that pointing at aircraft was illegal. When police arrived, Hubley admitted he had aimed at the helicopter.
Hubley was charged with endangerment, which is a felony.
The charge stemmed from a March 17 incident when he and Shania Smith, 22, aimed a laser at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing at Midway Airport, and then again at a police helicopter that was investigating the Southwest illumination. Both Slater and Smith were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Smith is awaiting trial on May 4.
From the Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-AM
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.
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.
Four month sentence for Radu Moldovan
His lawyer said that Moldovan “wanted to see how powerful” the £4 green laser pen was. The laser beam was aimed at or near the aircraft multiple times. The local sheriff said “The consequences of a Tornado crashing at RAF Leuchars raises the most horrific possibilities of death and injury to the pilot, navigator and anyone passing underneath.”
From BBC News
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
Hosseiny, originally from Afghanistan, was in the UK after seeking asylum in 2002. As a result of his laser assault and subsequent convictions, he was served with a deportation notice.
In the March 2009 incident, the airplane pilot said he had a "momentary loss of concentration" due to a "dazzling green light" as the plane was landing at Cardiff (Wales) airport. The trial judge stated that "The consequences of such an action could have been catastrophic. Fortunately there was no catastrophe and the aircraft landed safety."
More details from BBC News.
David Mackow, 29, who pleaded guilty to the federal charge, was sentenced on Monday and ordered to pay the fine within 30 days or face jail time. He also has to forfeit his laser pointer.
In October 2007, Mackow shone the pointer, commonly used in boardroom presentations, from his Beltline apartment at the flight that was landing in Calgary.
The pilot reported the incident and Calgary police dispatched its HAWCS helicopter to investigate. Mackow then pointed the green beam into the helicopter.
More details are available from CBC News
More details at WBNS 10TV
The helicopter pilot was quoted as saying that if you shine laser pointers at pilots, "there's a good chance you're going to wind up in jail. At the worst, you could bring down an aircraft and kill a lot of people."
Full story from The Buffalo News
Irfan Bozan, a student from Turkey, pointed the laser at aircraft and passing cars.
Click to read more...
The pilots felt that it was only their night-vision goggles, which reduced the glare, that saved them from a “tragic crash”. Romanov was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct and was fined the record amount.
From the Daily Record. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
UPDATE: In late August 2009, Romanov’s lawyers appealed, saying “the fine was maybe suitable for the offense, but not enough consideration has been given to his financial circumstances.” A hearing was scheduled for September 10. From the Press and Journal.
A police inspector was quoted as saying “The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”
From the Richmond-Twickenham Times and The Independent.
The acting U.S. Attorney, Larry Brown, stated in a press release “Federal authorities have recognized lasing of aircraft as an increasingly serious problem and have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute offenders. This is because the focused beams of a laser remain powerful even at a long distance and can expose pilots to radiation [light] levels above those considered to be flight safe. Brief exposure to even a relatively low-powered laser beam can cause discomfort and temporary visual impairments, such as glare, flash blind, and afterimages."Click to read more...
Three years in prison for lasering airplanes and other offenses
According to the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) prosecutor's office, the laser incidents unfolded this way:
Dewalt bought a high-power laser off the Internet and brought it to a party June 4 2008. That night, flight crews of two planes about to land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport reported that someone hit their cockpits with a laser. One airliner carried about 20 people, the other about 100.
About an hour later, a laser hit the cockpit of a MetroHealth Medical Center helicopter flying a patient to the hospital from Elyria.
The helicopter pilot told Cleveland police the area where the laser came from and when a pilot for the police helicopter flew over to investigate, he, too, was hit in the eye by a laser that was coming from a moving car.
Cleveland police stopped the car a short time later and found Dewalt in the back seat with a laser.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. See also Fox News.
Zakary Patrick Babet, of Bella Vista, was yesterday convinced in Hornsby Local Court of interfering with a crew member while in an aircraft.
Magistrate Leslie Brennan called Babet a "fool", and labelled his actions as a "serious" offence.
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Pilot Captain Mark Westwood told the court: "The overall effect was temporary blindness. I lost outside visual reference and could not see the instrumentation displayed in the aircraft.”
After the first incident he had to fly blind, taking emergency evasive action to position the helicopter out of the beam. He added: "It was a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I had to do it to get myself out of that dazzle."
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The South Australian pleaded guilty to prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft. Judge David Smith described Baldetti's actions as a disaster in the making, and sentenced him to two years and 10 months jail, with a non-parole period of 10 months.
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Kiefer, 22, spent the night in jail and faces a third-degree felony.
Kiefer and his parents, Thomas and Kathleen, were taken by surprise. They said they weren't given a chance to read the search warrant and were forced outside as agents searched the house, threw their belongings on the floor and kicked in the door to Kiefer's room, while his mother stood out back shouting, "Don't break the door down, I have the key."Click to read more...
Police say the helicopter is being targeted by lasers almost weekly and want the government to follow Australia's lead in banning possession of the high-powered lasers and introducing a specific charge for laser-pointing.
"Because I don't want to crash, and that's exactly what's going to happen," says pilot and senior constable Shane Gayley. "Helicopters don't glide. There's only one way down and you're screaming all the way."Click to read more...