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US: Texas woman arrested for aiming laser at a Border Patrol helicopter

A 20-year-old woman was arrested for shining a laser at a Border Patrol helicopter in Brownsville, Texas, around October 7 2013.

Yesenia Lisabeth Diaz laser
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.

From ValleyCentral.com

US: UPDATED - 18 months in prison for Texas man who lased helicopter

On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident.

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.

US: UPDATED - Texas men arrested for lasing Homeland Security helicopter while high

Two Texas men were arrested on March 7 2013 after allegedly aiming a green laser three times at a Department of Homeland Security helicopter flying near Donna, Texas. The beam temporarily blinded the pilot, who was wearing night vision goggles. He took evasive action to avoid the beam. He was able to identify the vehicle from which the laser was aimed, and directed ground units to its location.

Margarito Tristan laser Eugene Uresti laser
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.

US: Man charged in Detroit area helicopter incident; faces 20 years

Dennis Berthiaume was charged on October 26 2011 with aiming a green laser at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter pilot on August 25 2011. The pilot was momentarily startled and distracted by the first illumination, and was disoriented by a second strike in the eyes. An agent on the helicopter was also hit in the eyes, became disoriented and saw spots; subsequently seeking medical treatment.

The agent directed ground officers to Berthiaume’s home in Madison Heights, Michigan. He later told officers that he had used the laser three times, then hid it in a bedroom dresser after seeing the helicopter spotlight on his house.

Berthiaume faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

From the
Detroit News

US: Jurors find spotlight misuser guilty on one charge, not guilty on another

Jurors deliberated for a day in a case where a man aimed a spotlight at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 22 2010. The pilots, who were wearing night-vision goggles, were temporarily blinded by the spotlight. The co-pilot had to remove his goggles and direct the pilot, who was not able to remove his goggles while still piloting the aircraft.

On April 28 2011 the jury found Wayne P. Groen, 42, guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft. The jury found him not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. Sentencing was set for August 4 2011.

Groen lives near Lynden, Washington about 1/2 mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. According to the Seattle Times, Groen said he aimed the spotlight at the Border Protection helicopter because he was “curious” about their activities, bothered by the noise, and “wanted to alert the pilots as to how close they were to his home.”


Groen lives on H Street Road, which parallels the U.S.-Canada border

The Bellingham Herald reports that some of Groen’s neighbors have been annoyed by Border Protection activities, such as frequent low-level helicopter flights and vehicles traveling through their yards and fields. They “have been tempted” to spotlight helicopters, and felt that threat of a long prison term (up to 40 years) for Groen was excessive. One man quoted by the paper said he was in an old barn at night when a helicopter hovered overhead and the metal roof began to rattle and shake: “Had I had a good flashlight I would have shined it up at that black object to see what it was.”

From the Seattle Times and the Bellingham Herald. An account of the opening day of the trial, entitled “Light v. helicopter -- who felt threatened most?” can be read after registering at the Lynden Tribune; a cached version is available at Google.

UPDATE August 4 2011: Wayne Groen was sentenced to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision, and a $5,000 fine for incapacitating an individual during the authorized operation of an aircraft. Groen could have received up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 months; the defense wanted no prison time, one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. From The News Tribune