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US: 2 Orlando men competed to see who could hit more aircraft with lasers

Two Orlando men, who had just bought new laser pointers, aimed them into the sky to test the beams’ distance. Bystanders told them to point at airplanes, so the men began a competition to see who could target more aircraft.

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 laser Shannan Winemiller laser
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller


From the Orlando Sentinel

US: UPDATED - Laser at Orlando-area high school football game hits TV & police helicopters

Police in Oviedo, a city 18 miles northeast of Orlando, are searching for two suspects who aimed a green laser beam at a local TV helicopter, and then at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on September 19 2014.

WKMG-TV’s helicopter was filming a football game at Paul J. Hagerty High School with the incident occurred. A screenshot of footage from the TV helicopter shows the bright green flash as the beam is aimed directly at the camera:

WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 01


A second later, as the beam is aimed away from the camera, the laser location is visible in the crowd at the end of the bleachers:

WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 02


A close-up of the video footage, taken just after the laser was turned off, shows the two suspects. The bright object at lower left inside the yellow circle appears to be the laser, held in the left suspect’s right hand.


WKMG TV helicopter laser Oviedo 03


According to the station, a sheriff’s department helicopter was also hit; presumably it was responding to the WKMG illumination. Deputies told WKMG reporter Shaun Chaiyabhat that they talked to two teenaged suspects, but the deputies think the teens might have passed the laser pointer to friends in the crowd.

Chaiyabhat said “The Sheriff’s Office is taking this very seriously because they say it could be a federal crime.”

From ClickOrlando.com.

UPDATED - September 22 2014: WKMG ran a recap and short update on the story. The laser was not only pointed at the helicopters, but “players on the field were also complaining of getting flashed by the bright light.” As of the update, no arrests had been made.

US: UPDATED - Yet another Orlando person arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

In the third Orlando-area incident in less than a month, 30-year-old Joseph Parrott was arrested on July 2 2014 for aiming a green laser pointer at an Orange County sheriff’s department helicopter.

Joseph Parrott laser
Joseph Parrott


The helicopter crew was investigating an attempted burglary when they were hit “about four or five times” by a person in a car stopped at a traffic light. Parrott was charged with knowingly and willfully pointing a laser lighting device at the pilot of an aircraft, which is a third degree felony in Florida. Federal charges under the February 2012 law -- with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine -- may also be filed. In addition, the state attorney’s office was considering charging the driver of the car, Steven Romano, age 55.

Joseph Parrott arrest laser
During the arrest, Romano’s car at right, has six police vehicles behind it.


This incident comes less than a month after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 7 for aiming a laser at a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter (just north of Orlando), and only two days after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter (just south of Orlando).

From ClickOrlando.com and the Orlando Sentinel

UPDATED November 18 2014 - Parrott was found guilty of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. Parrott faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2, 2015. From an FBI press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida.

US: Another Orlando-area teen arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

A 17-year-old teenager from Kissimmee Florida, south of Orlando, was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser pointer at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter. The pilot said he was temporarily blinded by the light.

Jasiel Medina-Quintana told deputies he was playing in his backyard and did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. A neighbor interviewed by WKMG said the teen shouldn’t have been arrested: “I buy them [laser pointers] for my kids all the time.... What are they going to do? Arrest every kid who has a laser pointer?” asked Joanne King.

Jasiel Medina-Quintana laser
Jasiel Medina-Quintana


Medina-Quintana was booked into the Osceola County jail and was later released into his mother’s custody.

This incident comes less than a month after another Orlando-area teen was arrested on June 7 for the same offense.

From ClickOrlando.com

US: Orlando-area teen arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter

On June 7 2014, a 19-year-old man from the north Orlando area was arrested on felony charges of pointing a laser light at a pilot, and culpable negligence.

Trevor Ragno of Longwood, Fl. aimed a green laser light at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was on patrol. Ground officers were directed to a home where Ragno was found and arrested. He was released on $1000 bond the next morning.

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando
Trevor Ragno


Officials said there have been five incidents of lasers being pointed at pilots in Seminole County, all of which led to arrests. [The timespan of the five incidents -- during 2014 or all-time? -- was not indicated.]

ClickOrlando.com has an online news story from WKMG-TV which includes video from the helicopter of the laser attack, and of a person running away from a home. Below are two screens captured from the video.

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando copter

Trevor Ragno laser Longwood Orlando house


From ClickOrlando.com. Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.

US: Orlando-area tourist arrested for lasing helicopter during search mission

A tourist from Asheboro, North Carolina was arrested in Kissimmee, Florida (south of Orlando and east of Walt Disney World) on June 25 2013, and was charged with pointing a laser device at a pilot.


Ryan Paul Lucas - laser
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.

Pic 2013-06-26 at 7.40.44 PM
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World


From AroundOsceola.com and Central Florida News Channel 13

US: UPDATED - Orlando man acquitted of aiming at sheriff's helicopter

A 23-year-old Orlando man was charged in late October 2012, with aiming a laser into the cockpit of a Seminole (Florida) County Sheriff's Department helicopter on July 17 2012. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the federal offense.

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.”

US: Orlando man who lased 23+ planes pleads guilty; could get 5 year jail term

Orlando-area resident Glenn Stephen Hansen pleaded guilty on May 16 2012 to aiming a laser beam at an aircraft. He had been accused of lasing aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport (OIA) at least 23 times. However, under terms of his Plea Agreement, Hansen will be charged with just one count of knowingly aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft. In return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not charge Hansen with any of the other 22 potential federal criminal offenses.

Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.

As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.

The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”

When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”

LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...

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).

Click to read more...

US: Long saga of Frank Newton Anderson appears over: probation and $4000 fine

The long saga of Frank Newton Anderson has ended with one year’s probation and a $4000 fine on a federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Anderson faced up to 20 years in prison for lasing an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on April 13 2010.

He pleaded guilty in December 2010, and had his judge resign in June 2011 because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge called Anderson “an idiot, not a criminal.” A new judge was assigned, and Anderson was sentenced in July 2011, according to an article appearing in the Orlando Sentinel on September 15 2011.

Anderson’s laser case was especially interesting since it paralleled the gunfire case of Jason Dennis McGuire. He was arrested March 21 2010 in Orlando for firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. McGuire was sentenced April 26 2011 to 12 1/2 years in prison.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Man charged with aiming at vehicles and sheriff's helicopter

Christopher Marden, 20, admitted aiming a laser pointer at vehicles on an Interstate highway, then turning it on a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter on September 4 2011. The laser attacks lasted about 5-7 minutes, according to the man’s companions. The incident occurred in DeBary, Florida, roughly halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The helicopter had been assisting in a suspect search.

Christopher Marden laser
Christopher Marden

The Deltona man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, and could also be fined up to $11,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From the
Daytona Beach News-Journal and WFTV

US: Orlando teen suspected in multiple lasings of planes

After a rash of Orlando-area laser illuminations on commercial aircraft, a helicopter searching for suspects was illuminated six times by 17-year-old Stefano Fronte-Liporacci. The Venezuelan student was in possession of a green laser when he was arrested by ground units on August 28 2011. He was charged with knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony.

Pic 2011-08-30 at 5.40.44 PM
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.


Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com

US: Judge withdraws from Florida case because felony charge is too harsh for "an idiot, not a criminal"

A federal judge refused to sentence an Orlando man who pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to interfering with the operation of an aircraft. U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp said that Frank Newton Anderson was “an idiot, not a criminal” when he aimed a laser pointer at a sheriff’s helicopter on April 13 2010.

Sharp withdrew from the case because prosecutors would not reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The judge felt that this was a more appropriate charge and would deter any future actions. Sharp also pointed out that a felony conviction would mean that Anderson could never work in his field. (He previously owned a security company which closed when he lost his license.) The case was reassigned to a new judge.

From
NewsChief.com (The Anderson news starts on page 2 of the 3-page article.)

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: UPDATED - 5 years probation for Florida man

Mark Clay Hazlitt, 59, of Lakeland Florida was sentenced on June 2 2011 to five years probation on federal charges of interfering with the operation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.


Five years probation

The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.

According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.

LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.

From
NewsChief.com and The Ledger

US: Firing gun at helicopter: 10 years; using lasers: 3-20 years

In the past few years, a number of persons have been convicted of illuminating pilots of aircraft, often police helicopters. LaserPointerSafety.com has a partial list here. In the U.S., the average sentence seems to be about 3 years. Some persons may wonder how lasers are treated compared with guns.

In Orlando, two similar cases in the same jurisdiction provide one point of comparison.

Jason Dennis McGuire was convicted Jan 21 2011 of firing a handgun at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in March 2010. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jason Dennis McGuire “faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison”. He will be sentenced in April 2011.

In a parallel case, the Sentinel notes that another Orlando man, Frank Newton Anderson, “faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with the operation of an aircraft” by shining a laser at an Orange County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in April 2010. Anderson pleaded guilty on January 20 2011 to one count of interfering with an aircraft, Anderson also will be sentenced in April 2011. This case was previously reported here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

From the Orlando Sentinel and a Tampa FBI press release

GUN UPDATE: On April 26 2011, Jason Dennis McGuire was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for firing a handgun at a sheriff’s helicopter, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The charges were “attempted destruction of an aircraft, possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, and ... using a firearm during a violent crime.” A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice is here.

LASER UPDATE: In July 2011, Frank Newton Anderson was sentenced to one year probation and a $4000 fine for interfering with the operation of an aircraft, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, it appears this is a felony conviction which will prevent Anderson from working in his field of security. At the time of his arrest, he owned Viking Protective Group of Winter Park, Florida.

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Up to 20 years in prison possible in Orlando helicopter incident

A 43-year-old man has admitted guilt in an April 13 2010 incident when he hit a Sheriff’s Office helicopter two times as it flew over Orlando. The pilot “lost temporary sight of the aircraft’s instrumentation and horizon.” Frank Newton Anderson can face up to 20 years in federal prison for one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He will enter his guilty plea before a judge on January 19 2011.

From the Orlando Sentinel

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Orlando man faces felony charges

42-year-old Frank Newton Anderson was arrested on Tuesday, April 13 for pointing a laser at an Orange County (FL) sheriff’s helicopter. Anderson faces felony charges and as of April 14 remains in jail on no bond.

Frank Newton Anderson
Frank Newton Anderson

The pilot, Kevin Poston, was patrolling over Orlando when he saw a lighting-like flash. “Almost initially I thought maybe we had hit something”, he was quoted as saying. Spotter Patrick Deans, in the back of the helicopter, said “it was like a green flash right in front of my face, startling.” He saw a vehicle on the ground, in a parking lot. Then the vehicle started to flee, giving Anderson away. He stopped in another parking lot to hide. When ground units directed by the helicopter confronted him, Anderson said the laser (found 100 feet from his vehicle) was not his. However, the laser’s packaging was found in his vehicle.

Anderson appears to be the owner of a Winter Park, Florida security company, Viking Protective Group. When arrested, he was wearing a shirt with “Security” printed on it, and in his vehicle were handcuffs, a mask, camouflage paint, knives, and a Glock gun. He was also ticketed for having an expired license tag.

WFTV reporter Kathi Belich, in reporting the story, said “I hate to use a bad pun, but on so many levels he’s not too bright.”

From
WFTV News. The website includes a video from WFTV’s Kathi Belich

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:

  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Arrest for hitting Orlando sheriff's helicopter

19-year-old Rodrigo Azevedo was arrested in a tourist area of Orlando, for shining a laser at an Orange County (FL) sheriff’s helicopter. The charge is a third-degree felony.

It happened early in the morning of January 28 2010, near International Drive and Interstate 4. The pilot was forced to break away from a law enforcement call, to avoid the “potentially blinding light”. An observer in the helicopter was able to track the laser to a “carload of young men” traveling on I-4. Other law enforcement officers stopped the car and arrested Azevedo.

News reports state “this is the fourth case of this type of crime in recent months. Last month [Dec. 2009] the Direct TV blimp was lasered on its final approach to Orlando Executive Airport after covering the Champs Bowl game in Orlando.”

From WESH.com