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US: FBI looking for source of two July 4 laser illuminations in Cleveland

There have been numerous news reports in Cleveland, Ohio based on the FBI looking for the perpetrators of two laser illuminations. Below is a press release from the Cleveland FBI that describes the incident and the FBI’s search.

Seeking Information Regarding Laser Strikes

Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, and Calvin Williams, chief of Cleveland Division of Police, are seeking information regarding two recent laser strikes, one against a Cleveland Division of Police helicopter and one against a MetroHealth Life helicopter.

Both of these laser strikes occurred on July 4, 2017, at approximately 10:15 p.m. from the 3000 block of West 31st Street in Cleveland, Ohio.

The main hazard for aviation is that pilots can be distracted or temporarily flash-blinded by the light from a laser beam. The light often is a large light at aviation distances, unlike the tiny dot a laser makes at close range. Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny, two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision. Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.

Laser strikes are investigated by local and federal law enforcement. Under 18 USC 39 (A), whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned. Under 49 USC Section 46301 (a) (5) (A), the FAA may seek a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation for aiming a laser at an aircraft in violation of C.F.R. Section 91.11.

The FBI and our law enforcement partners are asking the public if they have any knowledge of the laser strikes that occurred last week. If anyone has any information please call the Cleveland Division of the FBI at (216) 522-1400. Tips can remain anonymous and reward money is available for the successful identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these laser strikes.

Any questions regarding this news release can be directed to SA Vicki D. Anderson at the Cleveland Office of the FBI at (216) 522-1400 or vicki.anderson@ic.fbi.gov or Sargent Jennifer Ciaccia at the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 623-5033.


From an FBI Cleveland news release dated July 12 2017. Here are two typical news reports, from Fox8 and from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

US: After lie detector test, another Texas man pleads guilty to aiming laser at a helicopter

On September 13 2016, Christopher B. Evans pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a flying aircraft.

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:

Oct 27 2015 laser helicopter 01
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer

Oct 27 2015 laser helicopter 02
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

US: FBI searching for laser perpetrator after Delta pilot's vision "severely disrupted" on landing an NY LaGuardia Airport

A pilot of a commercial aircraft suffered flashblindness and “severely disrupted” vision, after a green laser beam was aimed at a Delta airplane landing at LaGuardia Airport on the evening of March 25 2014. One news report said the pilot “continued to suffer pain in one eye afterward.”

The FBI announced on March 28 that they were searching for suspects in the Queens Boulevard area of Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.

From the Associated Press via MassLive.com, and Queens Chronicle. This incident was widely reported as an injury to the pilot, in press headlines such as “FBI: Laser flashed at Delta cockpit injured pilot landing airplane at New York’s LaGuardia Airport”

US: Search for laser leads to arrests on drug and other charges

A search for the persons who aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter on March 8 2014 has led to the arrest of two Bakersfield (Calif.) men on drug and other charges. The arrests were announced March 16 2014 by a joint laser strike task force consisting of the FBI, Bakersfield police, and Kern County deputies.

Timothy Wilson, 46, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and of narcotics paraphernalia, and resisting or delaying arrest. Patrick Florez, 45, was arrested on suspicion of stolen property and false license plate tabs.

The strike force confiscated a stolen motorcycle, quantities of methamphetamine, and narcotics-related material, paraphernalia and a scale.

No laser was found and the investigation is continuing.

From the Bakersfield Californian

US: UPDATED - Portland man indicted on 2 federal charges of aiming at aircraft

The FBI announced October 21 2013 that a Portland man was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at two aircraft on October 13 2013. Stephen Francis Bukucs, 39, faces two felony charges for aiming a green laser pointer at a United Airlines flight and a Jet Blue flight. According to the Oregonian, there was “no evidence that Bukucs’ actions caused any problems aboard any airliner.”

Stephen Francis Bukucs laser
Stephen Francis Bukucs, who worked as a private security guard

An AP report said Bukucs pleaded not guilty. He told a judge that he pointed at aircraft over 25 times “for excitement, for thrills”. He would listen to the resulting law enforcement response on a police scanner.

The judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Bukucs, who has no prior criminal record.

UPDATED October 25 2013: Bukucs was identified through sophisticated surveillance coordinated by the FBI, according to a search warrant application detailing the operation. Begun in August 2013, it involved the use of video-equipped aircraft to identify the laser source, secret cameras installed to monitor Bukucs’ apartment, and physical surveillance by Special Agents. An account of the operation is here.

UPDATED March 17 2015: Bukucs was sentenced to six months in federal prison on March 16 2015, with an additional three years probation after his release. Bukucs had pleaded guilty on July 15 2014 to aiming at two commercial airliner flights. Bukucs confessed to the FBI that, over several months, he had targeted up to 25 aircraft and that he did so for entertainment and as a “cat-and-mouse” game with the police who pursued him. According to the U.S. District Attorney, the laser beam Bukucs had was a high-powered version, not the type used in an office presentation.
His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. A task force involving the FBI, Portland police, Port of Portland police and other agencies, flew two airplanes as decoys in August 2013 to try and draw out the perpetrator. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013.
Prosecutors sought a two year sentence. The judge granted leniency (six months) because Bukucs was suffering from mental illness. His girlfriend had died from a seizure, leading him to abuse prescription painkillers and to deliberately target aircraft with the laser pointer. In court, Bukucs apologized and said he was ashamed. He knew the laser could annoy pilots but denied he had malicious intent: “I was just being stupid. I look back now and I'm so embarrassed by my actions." From a March 17 2015 FBI press release (reprinted below), a July 15 2014 Oregonian news story, a March 16 2015 Oregonian news story, and an AP report in the Greenfield Reporter.

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US: UPDATED - Passenger onboard aircraft arrested for burning holes in seat with homemade laser

On September 5 2013, a passenger onboard a Sun Country Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Seattle used two small, homemade lasers to burn several small holes in fabric near his seat. The crew did not see the holes but smelled the smoke. They feared that an electrical fire might be smoldering somewhere in the aircraft. An emergency diversion was made towards Spokane, 224 miles short of the original destination.

Fifteen minutes later, the 105 passengers and five crew members on the Boeing 737 landed in Spokane. Emergency services came on board and did not find any fire, heat or smoke but did find the burn holes.

Alex Philip Langloys Miller of Minneapolis was arrested by FBI agents and was charged with willful damage to an aircraft. He was released on $10,000 bond.

From the Telegraph, the Spokesman-Review and the Aviation Herald. A photo of the airplane involved, Sun Country Airlines registration number N716SY, is here.

UPDATED October 22 2013: The Island Guardian published more details about the incident. The smoke was first smelled by a passenger who had previously worked as a flight attendant. She notified a crew member. In looking for the source, they saw “a small bright blue light for a moment under one of the seats.” Another passenger thought they saw a person holding a laser between his legs. The suspicious person went to the restroom and returned. The plane made an emergency diversion to Spokane. After landing, a “greeting committee of police, airline officials and the FBI” found burn holes in the seat in front of the suspicious passenger, and found two lasers in the bathroom trash. From a September 13 2013 article in the Island Guardian.

US: Long Island man arrested for lasing two aircraft

A Long Island man was arrested in January 2013 after confessing to pointing a laser beam at two aircraft.

On August 21 2012, a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 was illuminated by a green laser beam while at 12,000 feet over Suffolk County on its way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Suffolk County police helicopter was sent to investigate and also had a green beam pointed at it. The police pilot was able to trace the beam back to the home of Angel Rivas in Shirley, a community in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island’s south shore. After landing, the three persons on the police helicopter were treated at a hospital and released.

At Rivas’ home, patrol officer, Matthew Dewitt, confronted the 33-year-old, who denied aiming at the aircraft. No action was taken due to a lack of any other evidence.

On January 4 2013, Dewitt was responding to a call of an altercation at a convenience store. Rivas turned out to be one of the persons involved. When asked for ID, Rivas said he did not have any due to a suspended license, and then told Dewitt “You know me, you were at my house, I was the one who lasered the plane.” Rivas was immediately arrested, advised of his Miranda rights, and was taken into custody.
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US: UPDATED - Orlando man arrested for lasing aircraft 23 times in 3 months

An Orlando-area man was arrested for aiming laser beams at least 23 times from January to March 2012 at aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport. [UPDATED - May 16 2012: Hanson pleaded guilty to one count; he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. UPDATE 2 - August 23 2012: Hanson received a six month prison sentence, plus one year probation and had to pay $10,000 restitution.]

Glenn Stephen Hansen laser
Glenn Stephen Hansen


Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.

Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).

Pic 2012-03-27 at 11.51.04 AM
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).


The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”

The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.

From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).

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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: Texas man arrested after aiming at FBI pilot

On June 2 2011, a Southwest Airlines pilot landing at Dallas’s Love Field reported a laser being aimed at the jet. Air traffic controllers warned other pilots. An FBI agent already airborne responded and began searching for the source. The man on the ground aimed his laser pointer at the FBI pilot, who then identified the location and notified ground units.

A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.


Sammy Ladymon


Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)

The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.

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US: 15 months in prison for 19-year-old

A 19-year-old man was sentenced to 15 months in U.S. federal prison, for illuminating a California Highway Patrol helicopter with a green laser beam. Nathan Ramon Wells will also be on probation for an additional three years after he completes his prison sentence.


15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft

”This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.

The June 3 2009 incident caused the helicopter pilots to be “momentarily blinded” and to change course -- breaking off from assisting police in a burglary investigation. The helicopter then tracked the car from which the light came. Officers on the ground stopped the vehicle and found Wells and a laser inside. During an interview with FBI agents in January 2010, "the defendant admitted that he pointed a green laser at the helicopter, which he knew was a police helicopter," according to the plea agreement, which says "he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." In July 2010, Wells pled guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft.

From the
Los Angeles Times; also at Gawker, Palm Springs Desert Sun and KESQ TV. Note: Sources differ on Wells’ age at sentencing; some say he was 19, others say he was 20. Sources also differ on the maximum penalty possible for interference with an operator of an aircraft; some say 3.5 years is the maximum, others say 20 years. And, sources differ on the date of the guilty plea; some say July 2010, others say September 2010.

US: Multiple laser incidents at New York airports

WABC is reporting that three aircraft at JFK International Airport had laser incidents in the last three days (since April 17). They also report an incident at nearby LaGuardia Airport yesterday (April 18). The FBI is investigating.

According to WABC, on Saturday April 17, a JetBlue flight originating in Portland, Maine was landing at JFK “when suddenly the pilots were distracted by an intensely bright green laser”. According to tower transcripts, the pilot said the laser was “directly pointing right at us. I saw the flash to the left looked, looked out left as I was landing. Put my head down, put up the sun screen.” [Note: This is a good reaction. Although the pilot initially looked towards the light, the pilot then took steps to reduce the light’s effect.]

From
WABC