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US: Calif. man who "can't help himself from doing stupid things" sentenced to 21 months for lasing police helicopter

(The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. It was also released by the FBI, Sacramento Division.)

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

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

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


From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com

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

San Diego laser from helicopter

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

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

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

Mariano Angel Godinez laser
Mariano Angel Godinez


From PE Bloggers

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

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

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

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

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


From MyFoxPhoenix.com, KHPO, and KJZZ

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

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

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w

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


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

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

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

US: UPDATED - Omaha man question but do not arrest man for lasing plane, police helicopter

A man in his late 20’s who authorities believe aimed a laser at an airplane and a police helicopter, possibly on multiple occasions, was questioned after being located by an Omaha (Nebraska) police helicopter. He was released without arrest, though U.S. officials are investigating further.

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.

2012-07-16 Omaha laser pointer evidence 300w
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.

US: 2 arrested for lasing Glendale CA police helicopter

A Glendale, California police helicopter was illuminated by a red laser beam three times on April 27 2012. The beam was easily traced to two men in a home’s backyard. 18-year-old Dylan Chavez and 20-year-old Jason Phillips were arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft. As of April 30, they were not charged under the new federal anti-laser law signed Feb. 14 by President Obama.

From the La Cañada Valley Sun

US: Man with "red beam" in glasses tries to enter cockpit

A man dressed strangely and acting suspiciously demanded to see the pilot of his American Airlines flight, about 15 minutes after takeoff from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on March 16 2012. Passenger Lori Barber said “he was wearing two pairs of glasses, one with a red beam coming out of the lens.” The unidentified man was subdued and the flight continued to its destination, Los Angeles International Airport. He was taken into custody by the FBI after AA flight 2401 landed. American Airlines officials said the man had no weapons.

Pic 2012-03-20 at 5.44.33 AM

The nature of the glasses is a mystery. Although a Gizmodo headline said the man wore “laser glasses”, the word “laser” was not used in the original CBS DFW story used as Gizmodo’s source.

A photo (above) taken by Barber shows the man wearing two pairs of glasses. A Google Image search for “laser glasses” and “laser pointer glasses” turned up one type of laser-emitting glasses but these have a different design: thick rims with a silver laser embedded above the nose. An eBay search turned up a similar pair; these do not appear to match either of the man’s glasses.

red laser pointer glasses from eBay

A search for LED (non-laser) glasses turned up a few with thick temples and a white area near the hinge, such as this pair and this pair, both of which emit a broad beam of white light:

white led reading glasses

However, LaserPointerSafety.com was unable to find commercially-sold glasses that emit red light and which look like one of the two pairs shown in Barber’s photo.

From CBS DFW and NBC DFW

US: 16-year-old arrested in San Diego for two laser pointing incidents

A 16-year-old boy was arrested by San Diego police, after two incidents of a red laser being pointed at a police helicopter. The first happened January 18 2012, in the Shelltown neighborhood. Ground officers were not able to find the source of the laser. The same crew was patrolling eight days later, and was illuminated from the same location. This time, a teenager was arrested in a backyard. He was charged with one count of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

From the San Diego Union Tribune and 10News.com

Pakistan: Pilot distracted for 15 minutes

A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus flight was flashed by a red laser beam for more than 15 minutes, while on final approach to Benazir Bhutto Airport on October 20 2011. The pilot told air traffic control he was distracted by the light which came from Mandra, about 25 miles south of the airport in Rawalpindi.

The airport manager said he would contact police, to try to find the person who tracked the aircraft with the laser.

From Dawn.com

India: Red lights thought impossible to be lasers

Indian aviation officials have doubts that a mysterious red light, being aimed at aircraft landing at Chennai Airport, is a laser. A spokesperson said it is “impossible to track an aircraft flying at high altitude using laser pointer lights.... Laser is an invisible spectrum and cannot be targeted at aircraft flying at high altitudes”. A press account noted that aircraft are at “over 1,000 feet while coming in to land.” The article also said that planes overseas are often targeted using “green LED lights” but this has not been reported in India.

From the
Times of India

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The spokesperson does not seem well informed. Lasers can emit visible light; red and green are the most common colors for pointers and handheld lasers. Further, light from a pointer or handheld laser can be visible to pilots at many thousands or even tens of thousands of feet. LED lights have a much broader beam and thus far, there have been no reports of an LED flashlight or device being used to interfere with pilot vision while airborne.

UPDATE, June 26 2011: Two supervisors of a construction site were detained for questioning. Police found that employees used pointers “as a communication tool at the site. The laser beams are pointed at colleagues to call them over instead of using phones or walkie-talkies.” The lasers cost about Rs 500. A local planetarium and the Indian Institution of Technology were cleared, since officials told police they had not used lasers at night. From the Times of India