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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: UPDATED - Ohio man charged with lying about his involvement in a laser/aircraft incident

A 57-year-old Toledo (Ohio) area man was charged with making a false statement with regard to a laser pointer incident that occurred on June 17 2012. Ronald E. Deal, Sr. told federal investigators that he did not know about the incident where a laser was aimed at an aircraft in Hancock County. He further falsely said he (Deal) pointed the laser when in fact he knew it was another person who did so.

Authorities did not have any additional details about the charge, or about who actually pointed the laser at the aircraft.

From the Toledo Blade

UPDATED - August 28 2014: Deal was sentenced on August 25 2014 to one month in prison followed by two years of probation, for the charge fof making a false statement or representation to a department or agency of the United States. From the Toledo Blade

US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers

A judge has ordered Nicholas Vecchiarelli to stay away from lasers, after the Hubbard, Ohio man pleaded not guilty on February 21 2014 to obstructing official business, a charge that could result in up to eight years in prison.

Vecchiarelli, 46, was accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a news helicopter that was covering a high school football game on October 11 2013. The pilot said he saw the light several times. Police found Vecchiarelli in his driveway with a police scanner and a laser pointer. They said he confessed and gave them the laser.

News reports at the time said he was arrested on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. It is not known what happened to that charge.

He is currently free on $10,000 bond.

Nicholas Vecchiarelli laser
Nicholas Vecchiarelli


From
WFMJ.com and TribToday

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

US: 45 days for "bored" Ohio man who lased police helicopter

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 45 days in Franklin County (Ohio) jail and 18 months probation on November 7 2013, for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus police helicopter.

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

US: UPDATED - Ohio man arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter

A man was arrested for aiming a laser at a news helicopter that was filming an October 11 2013 football game at Hubbard (Ohio) High School. The cameraman told police the laser light entered his eyes. He was able to direct police to the laser location, about 1 mile southeast of the stadium.

The FBI was notified. The unnamed man was charged on October 17 2013 with interfering with a flight crew, which is a second-degree felony.

Hubbard is about 5 miles northeast of Youngstown, Ohio.

From the Youngstown News

UPDATED February 20 2014: The man, Nicholas Vecchiarelli, pleaded not guilty to obstructing official business. (News accounts did not say what happened to the charge of interfering with a flight crew.) He was ordered by a judge to stay away from lasers. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

US: UPDATED - Laser pointer aimed at medical helicopter by Ohio man

A 32-year-old man was indicted by a Cleveland federal grand jury July 24 2013 for aiming a laser pointer at an emergency helicopter approaching Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio on June 15 2013. The man, Travis D. Krzysztofiak, had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.

UPDATED January 28 2014 -- Krzysztofiak pleaded guilty on Jan 27 2014 to one count of aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter, a felony charge. He will be sentenced on May 6 2014. From Vindy.com

UPDATED August 26 2016 — Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records. From WFMJ.COM
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US: Columbus man indicted for lasing police helicopter

A man was indicted May 10 2013 for aiming a blue laser beam at a Columbus (Ohio) police helicopter. Michael Rademacher, 27, faces one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft with a laser, and one count of possession of criminal tools. (It was not clear if the laser was the “criminal tool.”) He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted on both counts.

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

US: Laser aimed at medical helicopter in Ohio

A green laser was shined into the cockpit of a Life Flight medical helicopter as it flew near Findlay, Ohio on March 31 2012. There was no patient on the aircraft at the time. The laser did not cause any injury to the crew. According to a spokesperson for Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, pilots are trained to look away from laser beams.

The FBI office in Lima, Ohio is investigating the incident.

From ReviewTimes.com

US: Ohio man gets 2 days; says he did not understand laser's effect

25-year-old Timothy Lyman pleaded guilty to an October 20 2010 incident where he aimed a laser at a Columbus Ohio police helicopter, temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot.

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

US: Columbus man aims gun, laser at 2 helicopters

A 22-year-old Columbus (Ohio) area man was arrested and charged with a felony, after shining a green laser gunsight onto a medical helicopter and then an investigating police helicopter. Officers on the ground found Jared T. Shapiro with the laser, attached to a high-powered rifle.

More details at
WBNS 10TV

US: 2 Columbus men charged with felonies

Two men were arrested and charged with felonies, accused of aiming a laser pointer at a commercial airplane as it approached Port Columbus (Ohio) International Airport on September 14. They also are accused of pointing the laser at a Columbus police helicopter.

Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

More details from
The Columbus Dispatch

US: 3 year sentence in laser case

A Cleveland-area man who shined a green laser into the cockpits of airplanes and a helicopter last June will spend three years in prison after pleading guilty to those crimes and separate drug-dealing charges. Justin Dewalt, 26, pleaded guilty to several felonies and was sentenced Friday, officials said.


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.