A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: 54-year-old woman arrested for multiple laser strikes on CHP helicopter

A California Highway Patrol helicopter was illuminated multiple times on September 20 2017, allegedly by an unnamed 54-year-old woman.

The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 01
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance

CHP helicopter laser Sept 20 2017 02
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.


The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.

The FBI is investigating.

From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)

Canada: Edmonton woman charged with aiming laser at police helicopter

Sarah Schenker, 28, was said to have repeatedly aimed a laser pointer at an Edmonton Police Service air crew, early on the morning of July 11 2017.

She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.

A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”

From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press

US: Woman arrested by Houston police for aiming laser pointer at helicopter

A 23-year-old Corpus Christi, Texas woman was arrested July 10 2016 for aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter flying in a low-income area of Houston.

The helicopter was lased twice while in the air, and a third time when it landed. Officers traced the laser to Emily Ann Hunter. She was charged with illumination of an aircraft, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $1,000.

Emily Ann Hunter laser
Emily Ann Hunter


From Click2Houston

UK: Woman who deliberately aimed at police helicoper avoids jail sentence

A 20-year-old woman from Bircotes, Nottinghamshire, avoided jail when sentenced August 14 2014 for aiming a laser pen a number of times at a police helicopter.

On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.

Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.

Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”

The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.

Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.

From the Worksop Guardian

US: Woman arrested for pointing laser at sheriff's helicopter

A teenager aimed a green laser beam from a moving vehicle, towards a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s patrol helicopter on February 27 2014. She was arrested and could face up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Jenny Gutierrez, 19, was captured after the pilot followed Gutierrez to her home, and reported the location to sheriff’s deputies.

From KABC

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 - 3 men, 1 woman indicted in 3 separate California incidents

On March 21 2013, a federal grand jury in California indicted four individuals who were involved in three separate incidents of aiming lasers at aircraft. In all three cases, charges were filed under both the 2012 Federal law making it illegal to aim pointers at aircraft or their flight path, and also under statutes making it illegal to interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft.

One of the defendants’ lawyers said the charges were overkill. KGET reported that David Torres, attorney for Brett Lee Scott, said “The penalty in the federal system with respect to this particular crime, doesn't fit at all. And, I think that when you look historically as to why this particular crime was enacted, it was enacted because of folks like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and folks that have these laser-guided missiles, things of that nature, where they didn't want folks pointing guided lasers up in the air, things of that nature. But, here you have teenagers doing this from time to time or other individuals who are unaware of what the law is.”

Indicted were:
  • Brett Lee Scott, 25, of Bakersfield CA. Alleged to have flashblinded sheriff’s office helicopter pilots for “minutes”, and causing disorientation. The laser strikes came over a 3-month period.
  • Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, aka Javier Rodrigues, 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, both of Clovis CA. Alleged to have deliberately targeted a medical helicopter from the Children’s Hospital Central California, as well as a police helicopter sent to investigate.
  • Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 22, of Clovis CA. Alleged to have aimed a red laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter, causing a law enforcement mission to be called off.

Additional details are in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, reprinted below (click the “Read More…” link).

From KGET and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California

UPDATED November 4 2013: Charles Conrad Mahaffey pleaded guilty to the federal charge. He will be sentenced on January 27 2014.

UPDATED December 20 2013: Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was found guilty of attempting to interfere with a police helicopter. He and his girlfriend Jennifer Lorraine Coleman were also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer at the police helicopter. They will be sentenced March 10 2014.

UPDATED May 12 2014: Jennifer Lorraine Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Brett Lee Scott pleaded guilty and will be sentenced July 21 2014. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Calif. woman again points laser at public safety vehicles

On November 2 2012, Irene Marie Levy of San Jacinto, California, was arrested for aiming a laser, first at a police cruiser and then at a sheriff’s department helicopter sent to look for the laser source. She faces a felony charge for the helicopter incident, and a misdemeanor charge of pointing a laser at law enforcement.

Levy, 32, had previously been arrested for a June 30 2012 incident where Levy aimed a laser at least two separate times at a fire truck. She pleaded guilty on October 9 2012, was referred to mental health court, and was released on two years’ probation.

Irene Marie Levy laser pic2
Irene Marie Levy


From the Press-Enterprise (original Nov. 2 arrest and Nov. 8 follow-up story). The original LaserPointerSafety.com story of her fire truck arrest is here.

Catching up: Aviation incident news, Aug/Sept. 2012

We were away for most of August 2012, so here is a quick list of links having to do with news about aviation-related laser incidents.

US: Myrtle Beach ranks first on the FAA’s list of laser illuminations of commercial flights, ahead of Las Vegas and Orlando. This is leading to an August 4 meeting of the Horry County Council to consider a ban on laser pointers. From WMBF News, September 4.

UK: A 26-year-old who aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter was released after apologizing. The incident happened September 2 in the Beckenham area of London. From News Shopper, September 3.

UK: Devon and Cornwall police released a YouTube video showing a police helicopter being lasered by 19-year-old Stephen Lee Jones of Torquay. He was fined £250 for the May 24 2012 incident; it was the first prosecution under new laws by the police force. Officers said they have experienced about 20 laser hits over six months. From This Is South Devon, August 30, This Is the West Country, August 29, and BBC News England, August 28.

US: 18-year-old Jorge Quintero was arrested August 28 2012 for aiming a laser at the Ontario, California, police department helicopter. A patrol vehicle in the same area had been hit “two or three times in the last two weeks”. From the San Bernardino County Sun, August 29.

New Zealand: The pilot of an Air New Zealand flight was temporarily blinded in one eye while on approach to Blenheim Airport on August 27 2012. Police are looking for the perpetrator. From NZ City, August 28.

UK: 18-year-old Hammaad Arif of Blackburn was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 240 hours unpaid work, and pay £85 costs, for shining a laser more than 12 times into a Lancashire Police helicopter. From This Is Lancashire, August 28.

US: Two people, 22 and 24, were arrested for pointing a laser at an air ambulance on August 25 2012. They also hit a police helicopter that was searching for the laser source. From the Fresno Bee, August 26.

US: 19-year-old John Bagonzi from Falmouth, Maine was charged on August 27 2012 with aiming a laser pointer at a commercial aircraft and at a boat on August 24 2012. From the Bangor Daily News, August 25 and Boston.com, August 27.

US: A teenager was arrested for aiming a laser at a Border Patrol helicopter near Laredo, Texas. He was charged with interfering with the maneuvers of a federal agent. From the Laredo Sun, August 24.

UK: A 21-year-old woman from Hartlepool was arrested for aiming a laser at a Cleveland Police Force helicopter on August 22 2012. From the Hartlepool Mail, August 23.

US: A commercial aircraft approaching Kennedy Airport was lased, as was a police helicopter sent to investigate the August 21 2012 incident. The source came from near Brookhaven Airport in Shirley, Long Island, New York. Three helicopter officers went to a hospital emergency room due to headaches and possible eye damage. From the New York Post, August 23, Channel 6 News, August 23, and CBS New York, August 22.

US: Six months in prison for Orlando’s Glenn Stephen Hansen, who aimed at commercial aircraft at least 23 times from January to March 2012. He was also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and to pay around $10,000 restitution. From the Orlando Sentinel, August 23.

UK: Telephone threats were made to RAF Leeming, near Bedale, North Yorkshire, saying pilots would be dazzled by lasers in response to noise complaints. From the Northern Echo, August 22.

UK: Four aircraft were illuminated on one night, August 19 2012, at Leeds Bradford Airport. In a separate incident also on August 19, a 14-year-old boy was arrested for repeatedly targeting a West Yorkshire police helicopter with a laser pen. From the Harrogate News, August 20, the Yorkshire Evening Post, August 21 and the Telegraph and Argus, August 21.

US: There have been “several” green laser incidents recently at the Los Alamitos (Calif.) Joint Forces Training Base. Military and local police are looking for the persons responsible. From the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch, August 20.

US: 51-year-old Martin Eugene Miller was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at an Orange County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department helicopter on August 16 2012. He was held on $27,000 bail. From the Orange County Register, August 17.

Martin Eugene Miller laser
Martin Eugene Miller


US: A green laser was aimed into a plane’s cockpit as it flew over Walton County, Georgia, on August 15 2012. Police looked for suspects but could find no one. The story has background on additional laser incidents elsewhere. From the Loganville-Grayson Patch, August 18.

US: 42-year-old Thomas Kurtz of LaFayette, New York, was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment for shining a green laser at the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department helicopter on August 15 2012. From Syracuse.com, August 16.

UK: A 21-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a 737 airliner over Washington, Tyne and Wear, on its way to Newcastle International Airport on August 14 2012. At the same time, police were investigating complaints of a laser being shone into windows of area homes. The story discusses other local and UK-wide laser incidents. From the Sunderland Echo, August 16 and ChronicleLive.co.uk, August 17.

US: A San Diego TV station aired a report demonstrating the hazards of laser hits on helicopters. Pilot and sheriff’s deputy Gary Kneeshaw told the station how the laser can hurt a pilot or cause him to crash. From 10 News, August 16.

US: Laser hits on Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Savannah have halted air searches, according to a Coast Guard blog post. Incidents and statistics are given in the post, written by Lt. Stephanie Young. From the Coast Guard Compass, August 14.

UK: The Essex Police helicopter was hit by a laser, “temporarily stunning the crew”, as it flew over Basildon on August 14 2012. From the Southend Standard, August 15.

UK: 27-year-old Saqib Tayyab pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering a West Midlands police helicopter on June 6 2012. There were two lasers, from two different directions. Police were able to track one which led to Tayyab’s house in Mosely, a suburb of Birmingham. As they knocked on the door, items were thrown from a loft window. These turned out to be a £20 laser pen, a set of scales, and cannabis. He will be sentenced September 7. From the Birmingham Mail, August 10.

US: Calif. woman arrested for aiming at helicopter

Kimberly Rogers, 27, was arrested on September 23 2011 for illuminating a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a green laser. She was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft and was being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Pic 2011-09-26 at 2.01.54 PM
Kimberly Rogers

The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.

The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.

Pic 2011-09-25 at 7.31.16 AM
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport

From the Los Angeles Times

UK: Teens aim laser at helicopter; disrupt river rescue

A Cambridgeshire police helicopter was targeted by a laser beam as it assisted firefighters rescuing a woman from a river. The pilot reported that the light “could have temporarily blinded him.”

Police located and spoke with three teens: a boy (15) and two girls (14 and 16). So far, no charges have been filed in the July 22 2011 incident. An investigation is ongoing.

From
Cambridge News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.

UPDATE October 3 2011: The Cambridge News reports that the boy has been “reprimanded” and has been “dealt with by the police.” The reprimand was for a first offense. If there is a second offense, a final warning would be issued. On the third offense, the person would be charged and sent to court. From the Cambridge News.

US: California woman arrested for illuminating two helicopters

Police announced that on Feb. 5, they arrested a Long Beach (California) woman for illuminating two helicopters on Jan. 29 2011, causing one to break off an aerial search for suspects who had shot at detectives. Officers on the ground located 34-year-old Kelly Ann Smith. They took her laser pointer and released her so they could continue searching for the shooting suspects. One week later, she was arrested, spent the night in jail, and was released the next day on $20,000 bail. She faces two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Police said they hoped the arrest would send a message that this type of offense would be punished harshly.”

From the
Los Angeles Times and the Long Beach Post

UK: 180 hours of community service "for a laugh"

A 21-year-old UK woman was sentenced to 6 months in jail for shining a laser pen “for a laugh” at a police helicopter in Staines, just outside London Heathrow Airport. However, Natasha Forster’s sentence was suspended and she was ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service instead. The judge also ordered the laser to be destroyed.

A police inspector was quoted as saying “The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”

From the Richmond-Twickenham Times and The Independent.