A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Cayman: UPDATED - Trial begins for man who pointed laser at police helicopter in 2015

Trial of a Cayman man, charged with multiple counts of aiming a red laser beam at a police helicopter, began September 13 2017. The incident took place on April 29 2015.

Officers on the ground had seen a red laser beam that appeared to be attached to a firearm. The helicopter was sent to investigate. A detective in the helicopter testified that he saw a bright red light which was pointed at the aircraft numerous times. The detective said he was worried for the pilot’s vision, and also that the laser could be attached to a weapon.

He radioed a description of the suspect to ground officers. Based on his appearance, officers approached Javonnie Silburn, then approximately 19 years old. They asked if he had a laser; Silburn said yes and showed them a device that had both an LED light and a red laser beam. He was arrested on a charge of endangering an aircraft.

Later Silburn told police that he did not do it, that it was another man.

Prior to the trial, Silburn attempted to plead guilty to shining the laser at the helicopter one time. But the Crown did not accept the plea due to the multiple times the laser was directed at the aircraft.

The endangerment charge was apparently dropped. Silburn, now 21, is being tried on a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior within the sight or hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

Under cross-examination on the first day of the trial, the detective admitted he could not say definitely that Silburn was the person with the laser, only that he identified a man with an Afro hairstyle and short pants.

According to the Cayman Compass, there was a separate laser incident in November 2015 involving police aircraft.

From stories in the Cayman Compass by Carol Winker. (August 31 2017 story about trial being set, Sept. 13 2017 story about initial court proceedings, Sept. 14 2017 story about trial being delayed for a few days).

UPDATED September 28 2017 - The trial was delayed until October 11 2017.

Spain: British father and son face €600,000 fine for aiming laser at multiple aircraft

A 41-year-old British father and his 15-year-old son, who were vacationing in Spain, could be fined up to €600,000 (USD $700,000) for aiming a laser pointer at passenger aircraft approaching Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport.

The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.

British father son laser balcony in Spain
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony

Two laser pens were seized:

British father son laser pens seized in Spain

Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.

While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).

From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News

US: North Carolina teen arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Around 1 am on August 9 2017, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department helicopter was targeted by a green laser pointer. The crew spotted a person standing outside a vehicle, holding a laser.

They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.

Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero laser
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero


Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.

Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.

From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV

US: Aviation student arrested for aiming laser at airplane, control tower

A 23-year-old who said he was attending flight school to become a pilot was arrested Jan 3 2016 for aiming a green laser beam at an American Airlines flight landing at Daytona Beach International Airport, and at the control tower of the airport.

The control tower had called police around 10 pm after the two laser illuminations. Using binoculars, an air traffic controller had spotted a person in the area where the laser light came from.

Police picked up Gerardo Sanchez “because he was the only one walking near the airport” at the time. Sanchez had a laser on him, and told an officer he had been pointing the laser in different directions. He said he had aimed it in the general direction of an aircraft, and at the control tower several times. Sanchez said he was studying to be a pilot at the ATP Flight School, located at the airport; ATP had not confirmed whether Sanchez was a student.

Two air traffic controllers had laser light in their eyes. One pilot told police “the green laser did affect him for about one or two seconds because it was pointed at his eyes.” The other pilot saw the beam but the light was not pointed directly at him.

Gerardo Sanchez laser
Gerardo Sanchez


Sanchez was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, which is a felony.

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, also located in Daytona Beach, lists a “Gerardo Sanchez” as a student of theirs who was hired April 2014 as an instructor pilot by the Saudi Flight Academy. The photo shows an older person who does not resemble the 23-year-old Gerardo Sanchez who claimed to be a student pilot. We are mentioning this to avoid any confusion between the two Sanchez’s.

Northern Ireland: Man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

An unnamed man in his 30s was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a Police Service of Northern Ireland in mid-July 2017.

The helicopter was helping the Coastguard trying to locate a lost person, when the laser illumination occurred.

The man was arrested for endangering an aircraft and was released on bail.

From
BelfastLive

US: Georgia man arrested for aiming at police helicopter

A 47-year-old Georgia man was arrested for aiming a laser at a Gwinnett County police helicopter.

On July 5 2017, the helicopter pilots saw green laser light in the cockpit. They were able to trace it to a location in Johns Creek where ground officers arrested Marius Lizunas. He told them he was using a laser rangefinder to “check the range” to the aircraft.

Lizunas was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Marius Lizunas laser
Marius Lizunas


From U.S. News and World Report and WSB-TV

US: Probation for Tulsa man who lased police helicopter

A man who aimed a green laser beam at a Tusla, Oklahoma police helicopter was sentenced on July 10 2017 to one year of probation, despite sentencing guidelines recommending an 18-24 month prison sentence.

On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.

Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.

While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”

If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.

From the Tulsa World

Germany: UPDATED - Demonstrations at G20 summit target police helicopter

On July 6 2017, two police helicopter pilots were blinded by lasers aimed from the ground, during violent “Welcome to Hell” demonstrations protesting the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Media reports did not indicate how badly the pilots’ vision was affected.

Seventy-four other police officers were injured; one was hospitalized with an eye injury after a firework exploded in his face.

From the Mirror and Reuters

UPDATED JULY 9 2017 - After intensive investigations, German police arrested a 27-year-old Hamburg man “on suspicion of attempted murder”. The unnamed man blinded the two pilots “so badly while they were up in the air that they had to stop working because they couldn’t see.”

From FoxBusiness

US: Oklahoma City teenager arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 19-year-old Oklahoma City teen was arrested June 19 2017 for aiming a green laser beam multiple times at an Oklahoma City Police Department helicopter.

The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.

Darren Williams laser Oklahoma City
Darren Williams


The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”

He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.

From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5

Germany: Eight months for 49-year-old man who aimed at aircraft and police helicopter

A 49-year-old German man was sentenced May 31 2017 to eight months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.

The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.

He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.

From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.

US: Community service and fine for Calif. man who aimed laser at police helicopter

A 28-year-old man from Fontana, California was sentenced on May 30 2017 for aiming a laser at an Ontario, California police helicopter.

The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.

In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

From The Daily Bulletin

New Zealand: Man disappears before sentencing on charge of aiming a laser at aircraft

On April 5 2016, Tane Hemopo, 39, was arrested for repeatedly aiming a “high powered” laser pointer at two passenger planes landing at Christchurch Airport. In one case, a Virgin Airlines aircraft with 121 passengers was illuminated for about 20 seconds while at 20,000 feet altitude, then was illuminated an additional three times while on final landing approach. The pilots were dazzled but did not report more serious eye effects. He also aimed at the airport control tower.

Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.

In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.

The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.

On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.

On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.

From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.

US: Three years in 2017 for Kansas City man who aimed laser at police helicopter in 2013

Jordan Clarence Rogers, 26, was sentenced on January 17 2017 to three years in federal prison without parole.

On October 28 2013, Rogers aimed a laser three times at a Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department helicopter. The pilot had “eye strain” for several hours after the incident.

Rogers was indicted on the laser charge on August 26 2014. He pleaded guilty on September 8 2016 to one felony count.

At sentencing, federal prosecutors said that Rogers had an extensive history of criminal activity including drug and property crimes, which should be a factor in a longer 4-year sentence.

Rogers’ attorney said the sentence should be shorter. While Rogers knew it was illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, “he had no knowledge of the highly scientific manner in which a laser endangers an airplane.”

In a sentencing memorandum, he attorney wrote “The average person would believe that a laser beam hitting an aircraft would cause a small spot to appear on the aircraft or in the cockpit, much like shining a laser beam at a wall. It is not common knowledge that the laser actually increases with size as it extends, and that the glass of the cockpit can expand the light further, causing it to light up the entire cockpit.”

From KY3.com, the Kansas City Star, and an article by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica with additional links to legal materials.

US: Maryland man hits police helicopter eight times; crew goes to hospital

Connor Grant Brown, 30, was arrested for aiming a green laser pointer about eight times at a Maryland State Police helicopter on January 16 2017. The crew abandoned their mission (looking for a man running barefoot in cold temperatures), and landed. Two of the four persons on board — the pilot and the crew chief — went to Frederick Memorial Hospital for treatment. They were later released but will have to return for follow-up testing. The two men went back to work the following day.

Connor Grant Brown laser Jan 2017
Connor Grant Brown


Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.

According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]

The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”

The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”

A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.

At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”

After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”

From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter

A Bakersfield, California man wrote a public letter of apology, stating that he “paid dearly” for aiming a laser pointer on September 11 2014 that caused eye pain for a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot.

According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”

On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:

I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.

I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.

I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.

For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.

From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.

UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.

On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)

Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.

As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”

Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.

US: Wash state man aims laser at helicopter then at arresting officers

A 32-year-old man aimed a “multicolored LED laser light” at a Spokane (Wash.) County Sheriff’s Office helicopter on September 17 2016. The crew notified deputies on the ground of the laser’s location.

When deputies arrived, they told Brandon J. Neeser to show his hands. Neeser pointed the laser device at the deputies. They saw it was not connected to a gun so they did not take defensive action. The deputies arrested Neeser, who told them he did not know it was illegal and he “thought it would be funny” to aim at the helicopter because they were aiming a light at him.

Neeser faces two felony counts of unlawful discharge of a laser.

From MyFoxSpokane and KREM

Scotland: Man arrested for aiming laser at Police Scotland helicopter

A 41-year-old man was arrested for a September 5 2016 incident where a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated by laser light. The man was on Trafalgar Street in Clydebank, about 5 miles northwest of Glasgow, when the laser pen attack occurred.

A police spokesperson said “It is an offense we take extremely seriously and people need to realize the dangers of this reckless behavior. Our message is clear, use them and you will be arrested.”

From GlasgowLive

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: Texas man pleads guilty to aiming laser at Border Patrol helicopter

Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 2016 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.

The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.

Juan Peralez laser
Juan Peralez


He will be sentenced November 17 to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

From KLTV and the Gwinnett Daily Post

Canada: Teen points laser sight on pellet gun at police helicopter

A teenager was arrested after aiming the green beam from a pellet gun’s laser sight at an Air2 police helicopter in Vaughn, Canada, a town just north of Toronto, on August 16 2016.

An infrared camera onboard the aircraft helped the crew locate the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found the pellet gun, which 19-year-old Nicholas Caranci had thrown to the ground as he ran away. The IR camera helped the helicopter crew direct officers to the teen’s location.

Caranci laser Air2
In an attempt to escape arrest, Nicholas Carianci ran from the court at right and hopped over a fence, after throwing his pellet gun with a laser sight into weeds (green circle). Thanks to the helicopter IR surveillance camera, police were able to pick up both the teen and the pellet gun.


Caranci was arrested and charged with mischief endangering life, unlawfully engaging in behavior that endangers an aircraft, and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace.

From the Mirror

US: Two brothers in South Texas charged with aiming laser at helicopter

Two brothers from McAllen, Texas were arrested for aiming a laser at an Air and Marine Operations helicopter.

The incident happened August 25 2016 in Mission, Texas. The pilot’s vision was temporarily impaired as the laser light lit up the cockpit. The pilot directed ground officers to a home, where Aaron Caceres, 27, and his brother Francisco Caceres, 24, confessed to the laser misuse.

Aaron Caceres laser Francisco Caceres laser
Aaron (27) and Francisco (24) Caceres


They were charged with illumination of aircraft by intense light, a Class A misdemeanor.

From ValleyCentral.com and Chron.com

US: 15 month prison sentence for California man who aimed laser at sheriff's helicopter

Mario Deleon Lopez, a 35-year-old Santa Ana (California) man who intentionally aimed a laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, was sentenced August 23 2016 to 15 months in federal prison.

On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”

The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.

“This defendant knew that pointing the laser at the helicopter could cause the pilot blindness and endanger those operating the aircraft, but committed the crime anyway,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a senseless crime that warrants the sentence imposed by the court.”

United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, said the offense was a “distraction” to the people in the air and that “people could die.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California

US: 37-year-old lases police aircraft, arrested; 7-year-old hits same aircraft, let go

On July 23 2016, a Portland police aircraft was illuminated by laser light. The beam was traced to David Martinez, 37, who was arrested on charges of recklessly endangering another person, and unlawful directing light from a laser pointer. The laser pointer was confiscated.

David Martinez laser
David Martinez


While the first incident was being investigated, another laser illuminated the aircraft. This was traced to a 7-year-old. The child’s mother was given the laser pointer, along with a lecture about the dangers of aiming at aircraft. The child was not charged.

The distance between the two laser users was about 4 miles. The map below shows the ground location of the first and second incidents:

portland map 37-year-old 7-year-old

On July 25 Martinez pleaded not guilty to the two charges. He has prior court records which include felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and failure to appear. He also has been charged with heroin delivery and possession of heroin and methamphetamine; that case is pending.

From the Associated Press via the Register-Guard, and OregonLive

UK: Eight and six month sentences for aiming laser pen at helicopter

Two U.K. men were sentenced to jail on July 22 2016, for aiming the green beam of a laser pen onto a police helicopter.

During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.

Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.

His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.

The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”

Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”

Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”

From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

US: Florida man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

A 26-year-old man was arrested on July 8 2016, for repeatedly aiming green laser light at a Marion County (Florida) sheriff’s helicopter.

Officers in the helicopter were searching for a kidnapping suspect when they were illuminated 15-20 times as they flew over Weirsdale, Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. The pilot was directly hit in the eyes “at least five times” according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

The airborne officers used night-vision equipment to find Phillip Willman. He was arrested and told officers he only aimed the laser at the helicopter once. Willman was charged with six counts of pointing laser light at a driver or pilot.

Pic 2016-07-11 at 5.05.30 PM
Phillip Willman


The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that during 2016, there have been “over five” incidents where lasers were aimed at helicopters, two of which ended with an arrest.

From FOX35 Orlando

UK: Man sentenced to 20 weeks, for aiming laser at police helicopter

A Hull man was given a 20 week prison sentence on February 18 2016, for aiming a £9 (USD $13) laser pen at a Humberside Police helicopter on January 6 2016. Philip Houghton, 25, had previously pleaded guilty to the offense.

Philip Houghton laser
Philip Houghton


From BBC News

US: 3 news copters plus police chopper illuminated by laser light in NYC

Two news helicopters were illuminated with green laser light around 5:30 pm local time in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, as they hovered to cover a story about a stolen Greyhound bus. A NY Police Department helicopter called to the scene also had a green beam aimed at it.

[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]

One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.

NYC aircraft laser Nov 11 2015

WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.

laser nov 11 2015 nbc brooklyn
From WNBC Chopper 4




According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “

Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.

The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.

Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)

About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.

laser nov 11 2015 abc7ny elizabeth nj
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video



From Fox News, NBCNewYork, DNAinfo, ABC7NY, Newsday, New York Daily News

US: One year in jail plus 3 years probation for Calif. teen who aimed laser at aircraft

Enrique Felix Gomez pleaded no contest September 14 2015 to aiming a high-powered green laser at an aircraft, and then at Los Angeles County fire and police helicopters on February 14 2015. Gomez, of Gardenia Calif., was sentenced November 2 2015 to one year in jail and three years probation.

From
MyNewsLA.com

US: UPDATED - Texas man pleads guilty to aiming a laser at a DPS helicopter

A 37-year-old Dallas man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on November 3 2015 to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The incident occurred on May 30 2015. Orlando Jose Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser beam at a Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23 2015, after being indicted by a federal grand jury.

He remains free on bond; a sentencing date has not been set. He could receive up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

Orlando Jose Chapa laser
Orlando Jose Chapa


From ABC13 and the Dallas Morning News

UPDATED February 18 2016 — Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison. From KCBD

US: Florida man aims "laser comb" at helicopter, is arrested

A Florida man aimed a Bosley LaserComb, used to stimulate hair growth, at a Marion County Sheriff’s helicopter on September 2 2015. The pilot was temporarily blinded. In addition, his night vision goggles were overwhelmed by the bright light.

The helicopter crew radioed ground officers, who arrested Mark A. Geohagan, 55, of Ocala. He told officers it was “not a laser” but a laser comb. Geohagan said he was testing the distance the light could reach, and that he meant no harm. Geohagan was charged a few hours later with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot.

Mark Allen Albert Geohagan laser
Mark A. Geohagan. His middle name was variously reported as “Allen” or “Albert”


The Bosley LaserComb Elite used by Geohagan has nine red 650nm laser diodes arranged in a line, that normally are directed towards a person’s scalp. When aimed into space, it produces a single, “extremely bright” spot of light as described in more detail after the “Read More…” link below.

From the Ocala StarBanner and Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to Chuck Maricle, Ph.D., for background information on hair comb products. For additional description and analysis of laser combs, click the “read more…” link.

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UK: Man given 12-month conditional discharge for aiming laser pen at Humberside police helicopter

A 26-year-old man from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire was sentenced August 3 2015 on charges of shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. The incident occurred March 27 2015, and involved a Humberside Police helicopter.

Scott Christopher Brown was given was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and costs of £85 by North Lincolnshire magistrates.

(For non-U.K. readers, “a conditional discharge is a sentence vitiating the finding of guilt in which the offender receives no punishment provided that, in a period set by the court [not more than three years], no further offence is committed.” In 2008, about 6% of sentences were conditional discharges.)

From the Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Wikipedia page on Discharge (sentence)

US: UPDATED - Texas man arrested for aiming at eight airliners and a police helicopter

A 23-year-old man from rural Alvarado, Texas was arrested July 22 2015 on suspicion of aiming a laser at eight commercial aircraft as well as a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter and a Fort Worth police helicopter.

Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.

Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.

The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.

The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”

Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.

Austin Lawrence Siferd laser
Austin Lawrence Siferd


According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.

From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com

UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.

UK: London teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A south London teenager was arrested on July 27 2015 for aiming a laser pen at a Metropolitan Police helicopter. The aircraft was searching for a burglar when it was repeatedly hit. The crew identified the source, and the boy was arrested about an hour later. He was charged with endangering an aircraft.

From the London Evening Standard

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
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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.