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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: UPDATED - Austin TX man arrested for aiming laser at police helicopter

Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr. was arrested in late May 2014, on charges of aiming a laser pointer multiple times at an Austin, Texas police helicopter, as it was trying to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on February 15 2014.

Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser
Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr.


The 25-year-old faces up to five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine if convicted.

From KEYE TV

UPDATED - July 7 2014: Ruedas entered a guilty plea in Federal court in Austin. No sentencing date has been set. Ruedas faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. From SFGate, KEYE TV and the Austin American-Statesman.

UPDATED - October 2 2014: Ruedas was sentenced to two years in prison, plus three years probation after his release. From KTBC and the Austin American-Statesman.

UPDATED - October 9 2014: Austin TV station FOX 7 obtained video from the AIR-1 helicopter, showing the Frbruary laser strike and the arrest. From MyFOXaustin.

Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser pointer arrest video
Click photo for a link to the FOX 7 video

Ukraine: Video shows Russian soldier aiming laser at recon plane

A video released by Ukraine's press service shows a Russian soldier aiming a green laser at a Ukranian DA42 light surveillance plane. This was apparently done either for determining range, or to dazzle the pilots or the surveillance camera.

The propeller plane was patrolling the northern part of Crimea when it was fired upon during daylight hours.

Ukraine recon plane Russian soldier laser 300w
A still frame from the video, showing the soldier outside a tent



From The Aviationist

Wales: Suspended sentence for 8-minute lasing of police helicopter

A 22-year-old man from Greenfield, Flintshire was given a suspended sentence on January 9 2014 for aiming a laser in a “persistent and prolonged laser attack” on a North Wales Police helicopter.

On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.

Wales laser attack
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen
here.

While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.

The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.

Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.

At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.

From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online

US: UPDATED - Man arrested in San Diego, police helicopter pilot is "recovering"

A 25-year-old man was arrested for repeatedly shining a red laser at a San Diego Police Helicopter at about 10:30 pm on September 17 2013. The pilot was temporarily blinded and was reported to be “recovering” after the incident. He was able to inform ground officers of the suspect’s location. The suspect did admit to aiming the laser at the helicopter.

San Diego laser
The name of the suspect was not immediately provided.


From U-T San Diego and CBS8.com

UPDATED September 19 2013: The man arrested was identified as Abel Becerril. A news story from ABC 10 includes video from the ABLE helicopter. There were two men in a parking lot, who hit the helicopter more than seven times. They then separately ran away, tossing the laser pointer during their run. Becerril will be charged with a felony. According to San Diego police, laserings of their helicopter happen “several times a week.” From ABC 10news.com (story, video and still photo shown below).

San Diego laser from helicopter

Canada: Richmond Hill teen arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Nima Serghani, 19, was arrested on charges that include mischief endangering life, for aiming a laser pen at the York Regional Police Helicopter on July 21 2013. The pilot, who was helping with a weapons call, left the area to ensure the safety of the crew and aircraft. Ground officers entered a home, found a bright-light source and drug-related items. A court date was set for August 2013.

Pic 2013-07-31 at 5.34.52 PM
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.


From 680news.com and YorkRegion.com. Thanks also to Kevin Smith for informing us as to which York (U.K. or Canada) was involved!

US: 30 months for Dallas man who lased helicopter "to see how far it would go"

Kenneth Santodomingo was sentenced July 25 2013 to 30 months in federal prison, for the January 28 2013 lasing of a helicopter.

A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.

“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.

US: UPDATED - Phoenix police helicopter lased twice in one night; one arrest made

A Phoenix police department helicopter was illuminated twice in one night by a laser beam, early in the morning of May 29 2013. No arrest was made in the first incident, which occurred shortly after midnight. Two hours later, and 15 miles away by air, the helicopter was once again illuminated. An unidentified man was arrested in the second incident. A police spokesperson said there was no immediate indication of any crew injury in either incident.

Pic 2013-05-29 at 2.40.36 PM

The first incident occurred at the red square location, the second incident occurred two hours and 15 miles away at the green triangle location.


From MyFoxPhoenix.com

UPDATE May 30 2013 - An arrest was made in the second incident. Ralph Rubi, Jr., 37, of Phoenix was arrested on three charges of endangerment. Police said they found a laser device in his home, and that Rubi was a suspect in a previous incident involving a helicopter landing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. From RTT News, AZfamily.com, and CBS 5.

Pic 2013-06-27 at 3.53.15 PM
Ralph Rubi



New Zealand: Teen sentenced to home detention

A south Auckland teenager was sentenced on September 21 2012 to 4-1/2 months home detention, for illuminating three aircraft and a police helicopter with a laser.

On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”

Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.

Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”

From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.

US: Lodi CA man quickly captured thanks to airborne video

Lodi police released a video showing how a Lodi man was captured just four minutes after he began targeting a California Highway Patrol aircraft with a green laser pointer on April 29 2012.

Lodi police laser video - visible
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.

Lodi police laser video - ir
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).


The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.

Charles Brill laser


Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.

Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."

From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.

Canada: 2 laserings of commercial airplanes in 2 months, near Victoria BC

A green laser beam was pointed at a WestJet flight landing in Victoria (BC) on January 10 2012. Pilots did not look directly at the light. This was the second report of a laser being pointed at a commercial airliner in two months, according to Saanich police. A CTV video report goes into more detail about the incident:



From CTV News

Australia: UPDATED - Video shows Sept. arrest of Hampton Park man given AUD $3500 fine

Video footage taken by a police helicopter helped track and convict Tam Thanh Nguyen, 21, of Cranbourne. On September 3 2011, Nguyen was at a party in Hampton Park. He pointed a green laser, which he had bought on vacation in Malaysia, at the helicopter which was 2 km away. The pilot turned on the video which recorded Nguyen’s second illumination:


The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.

On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.

Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)

From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.

UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
.

Russia: Laser beam shines on Moscow airplane

Moscow police are searching for the person who aimed a laser beam at an aircraft landing at Domodedovo Airport on July 25 2010. Three incidents also happened at the same airport in June, according to authorities.

In a related story, Russia Today has posted a video showing what it looks like to be in an aircraft during a laser illumination:


Frame showing point of maximum dazzle when a laser beam hits the aircraft’s cockpit window. Click to see the
YouTube video.

From UPI, and from Russia Today via YouTube

UPDATE July 28 2011: Bloomberg quotes news agency RIA Novosti as saying a suspect was caught on July 27. The 26-year-old told police “he couldn’t even imagine that his actions could cause a plane to crash.” The news agency says the suspect was 40 kilometers from the airport on Kosygin (Kosygina) Street in western Moscow.


The map shows the suspect’s location (A) in relation to Domodedovo Airport (B)

US: St. Louis area publicity warns against pointing at aircraft

The case of a man arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter, was the subject of an FBI press conference for St. Louis-area media on July 26 2011. 26-year-old Justin E. Stouder of O’Fallon, Missouri, described how he aimed a green laser at a police helicopter on April 27 2010. One of the pilots said the illumination was similar to a camera flash. Stouder kept hitting the helicopter. Police converged on his home and he was arrested, spending the night in jail. Although Stouder was charged with “obstructing government operations” on May 14 2010, he successfully completed a one-year pretrial diversion program and thus has no additional penalty and no criminal record. (KSDK did note that Stouder “lost two career opportunities while his case was pending.”)


This screenshot shows Stouder at the FBI press conference where he apologized to the pilots. The full video is at KSDK.com

The conference was held to bring attention to the potential dangers of lasing aircraft. The agent in charge and the U.S. assistant attorney both stressed that the next person to be charged may face much stronger penalties than Stouder did.

From
stltoday.com. A video interview with the FBI agent-in-charge is available at Fox 2 Now.

US: Pilot's video & research helps FBI find & convict Chicago-area man

A pilot’s videotaped research helped the FBI find a laser pointer in a door-to-door search, in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The pointer’s owner, Jason G. Heeringa was arrested in 2010. On July 12 2011 the 29-year-old pleaded guilty in a plea bargain arrangement to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and battery.


Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service

Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.

Click to read more...

US: San Diego teen faces three years; video will be evidence

A San Diego teenager admitted to police arresting him that he pointed a laser at a police helicopter on July 11 2011. Jose Gallardo Rincon, 18, gave officers his laser pointer. He was charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. This felony carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.

Rincon was held on $25,000 bail. His lawyer argued, unsuccessfully, that Rincon did not present a danger to the community since he has no previous criminal record.


San Diego police released a video of the laser illumination.


From CBS8 and NBC San Diego. Both sources have video showing the illumination.

UPDATE, July 27 2011: Rincon’s trial was set for September 15, according to NBC San Diego.

UPDATE 2, September 15 2011: Rincon pleaded guilty to the felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. He will be sentenced on September 13 2012. If Rincon does not commit any new crimes during the one-year timespan, the charge will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor. That would reduce his maximum possible sentence from three years in prison (for a felony) to one year in county jail (for a misdemeanor). From Sign On San Diego.

US: Tucson man arrested; video shows laser illumination

20-year-old Alama Nicholson Jeffs was charged with two counts of endangerment for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter in Tucson, on July 13 2011. The light disoriented the crew, but no injuries were reported.

Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.


The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.

The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:


Click to see the full video

From the Green Valley News

UK: Footage of Birmingham helicopter tracking suspect after being lasered

Birmingham police released a video showing two youths lasering a helicopter, then running and unsuccessfully attempting to flee.


Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera


The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter


The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser


After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running


The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined
£100 in youth court.



Click to play the YouTube video

For a transcript of the video narration, click the “Read More...” link below.

Related stories in the Birmingham Mail March 11 2009 and April 6 2009, and the Sunday Mercury May 7 2009

Click to read more...

US: 12 planes report a laser in Seattle. UPDATE: Arrest made

Pilots on 12 jetliners landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 22 2009, reported that someone was shining a green laser light into their cockpits.

All the planes were targeted during a 20-minute period Sunday night, and all landed safely. But the incident led to pilots simultaneously trying to avoid being temporarily blinded by the light while trying to help authorities pinpoint its source, believed to be about a mile north of the airport.

Air traffic controllers continuously cautioned pilots about the light during the episode, which lasted from 7:10 to 7:30 p.m. PT.

A pilot reported the source to be a block and a half west of an interstate. Airport authorities said they conducted two searches of the area but did not find the culprit.

Officials note that it is a federal crime to point a laser light at an aircraft, and pilots are required to report encounters with laser lights. Officials fear that the lights could cause an accident by blinding pilots or otherwise affecting their night vision.

The FBI has “made it a priority” to investigate laser incidents, according to CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve.. MSNBC reports that the Transportation Safety Administration is also involved in the investigation.

Additional details from CNN and MSNBC. A CNN video of the news story “Lasers aimed at planes”, reported by Jeanne Meserve, is also available from CNN’s website. The video adds information on the FBI which is not in the website print version.
UPDATE: On March 6 2009, police arrested Christopher C. Saunders on the felony charge of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser. His apartment is in Burien, near the area where the lasers originated. According to the Seattle Times, Saunders told police he was “pointing the light in multiple directions outside a party and may have layered a plane.” From KOMOnews and the Seattle Times.
UPDATE #2: A March 25 2009 AP story stated that Saunders had been released with no charges filed against him. The story also noted that a laser was aimed at an Alaska Airlines flight landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The source of the laser was “near the source of previous laser reports.” From SignOnSanDiego quoting KOMO television.
.

Romania: Video of helicopter incident

A YouTube video taken from a helicopter in Bucharest includes a brief laser illumination. The frame grab below shows the view as the laser reaches maximum brightness.



Below is the YouTube video (click the play triangle to start the video). The laser perpetrator is located in the street intersection. The incident happens from about 5:00 to 5:04 in the video.

The illuminations are don’t appear to be as bright or disruptive as those in the UK helicopter footage here. However, no matter how low-powered the laser or how brief the illumination, lasers should NEVER be aimed at helicopters, aircraft or other vehicles.




Thanks to Andy Faulkner of Laser Shows S.R.L. in Bucharest for bringing this to our attention, and to Peter Broerse of DMXLASER in the Netherlands for the frame grab.

UK: Video of helicopter incident

A news report shows a helicopter-eye view of a laser incident. Here is a frame grab from the video, showing the laser when it is on the cockpit:



Click to play the full YouTube video:



Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com

Some might say that the laser in this incident looked “manageable”. But there are a number of issues:
  • The person might have bad aim. With care or a tripod, this could have been much worse.
  • The laser might be relatively low-powered, such as 5 mW or less. If a higher-power laser was used, obviously the light would be much brighter.
  • We are seeing what a camera sees. The human eye could be more bothered by the laser hits.
  • The pilots are obviously distracted, in two major ways. The light itself is distracting, plus they are concentrating on this incident (trying to find the perpetrator). They are taking time away from “normal” police work to have to deal with this situation.
  • If the police had been able to find the perpetrator, he or she would have been arrested. This would quickly turn a “prank” into a serious, expensive matter for the person. (Search this page for the categories Arrests and Fines and jail to see that this is a real possibility.)

As stated elsewhere in this website, levels of laser light which may seem reasonable to laser enthusiasts cause problems for pilots. The simplest solution is to NEVER aim a laser at an aircraft.

Thanks to “Nordhavn” from laserpointerforums.com for bringing this video to our attention