A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: NYPD video shows man killed for aiming fake gun laser pointer at officers

On September 6 2016, New York City Police Department officers fatally shot a man who they say aimed an imitation gun with a laser pointer at them. Killed was 31-year-old college student Miguel Richards.

Police released four videos from officers’ body-worn cameras, showing how the incident progressed. A detailed look at the laser light seen in videos is below. First though, a summary of the incident.

The fatal incident


Police had been called by Richards’ landlord because Richards had not been seen for a few days. Confronted by two police officers in his Bronx apartment bedroom, Richards stood motionless and silent throughout most of the incident. He had a knife in one hand and the toy gun behind his back.

Miguel Richards toy gun laser pointer NYPD video frame 926

Body-worn video shows the scene.

Police asked him dozens of times to drop the knife and put his hands up. After about 10 minutes, they noticed the gun.

An officer told Richards “"Drop that gun, dude. Drop that gun. I don't want to shoot you if you've got a fake gun in your hand. You hear me? But I will shoot you if that's a real gun."

Two additional officers then arrived; one pulled out a stun gun. Richards appeared to raise his arm and aim the laser pointer towards the officers. The officer with the stun gun fired. After a few seconds, and a possible second laser “shot” from Richards, a second officer fired nine bullets, a third officer fired seven bullets, and the fourth officer did not fire.

Richards died at the scene.

Miguel Richards toy gun laser pointer floor

The imitation pistol with laser pointer lies at the scene; NYPD photo.

Click to read more...

US: Man charged with pointing laser at two Va. police officers

A man was charged for shining a laser on two Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department officers on December 6 2016.

Just after 2 a.m., two officers, dressed in full uniform, responded to the 12200 block of Water Elm Lane for a report of concern for a garage door that was left partially open. As they waited outside a home to speak to someone, one officer noticed a red laser pointed directly at them. Not knowing the source or purpose of the light, both officers took cover.

They saw the suspect standing on an apartment balcony nearby, in the 4400 block of Milroy Way. They went to the apartment and identified the suspect, who was cooperative. Officers determined the device was a small laser pointer.

Johnny A. Tela, 24, of Centreville, was issued a summons for pointing a laser at a law-enforcement officer (Va State code 18.2-57.01).

From a Fairfax County Police Department news story

US: Disorderly man aims laser pointer at police officer

A disorderly man was arrested in New Castle, Indiana, for aiming a red laser pointer at a police officer.

At about 4:35 am on September 11 2016, city police were called to a tavern where 57-year-old David Roginski was trying to enter — although the tavern was closed. He shouted at officers, flipped a lit cigarette at them, then pointed the laser at an officer while hiding behind a traffic light box.

He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and with directing a laser pointer at a public safety officer. Each charge could result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days. (On September 13, he was separately charged with auto theft, stemming from allegedly stealing a vehicle on September 7. Roginski has had multiple past run-ins with the law, as well.)

From the Star Press and the Courier-Times

US: Bronx bus driver sees doctor after passenger aims red laser at him

A 52-year-old bus driver had a red laser beam shone in his eye by a passenger, on November 18 2015. The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority bus BX15 was on its route in the Bronx with about 25 passengers aboard when driver Kenneth Johnson saw a flash of red laser light that temporarily blinded him. He stopped the bus and the passengers — including the unknown person with the laser — got off.

Johnson went to a hospital and had an eye examination the next day. (No results were reported as of November 19.)

Because the bus has cameras, the video will be used to try to identify the perpetrator.

According to WABC, this is the first laser incident involving a New York City bus driver.

From WABC

Germany: Bus driver's eye injured by laser pointer aimed by child

An October 5 2015 report in the British Medical Journal Case Reports describes a public bus driver who suffered retinal injury due to a schoolboy aiming a red laser beam into a mirror on the bus, reflecting into the driver’s eyes.

Diagram of laser pointer on bus

The 44-year-old driver stared into the laser several times, as he tried to identify the person holding the laser. He suffered blurred vision in his right eye immediately after the exposure, but waited 6 months before having his first complete eye exam.

The exam showed “spot-like retinal pigment epithelium disturbances temporal to the fovea of the right eye, with no abnormalities in his left eye.” The authors stated that “The subjective complaints and objective ophthalmological findings of this patient were consistent and strongly suggested that the repetitive exposure of the eye to the reflected laser spot 6 months previously had caused subtle but detectable injury to the macula.”

The authors concluded with two “Learning points”:

  • “We suggest that no laser pointers of any class are made available to children, since they are unlikely to understand the risks of permanent retinal damage.”

  • “For the safety of users and the general public, even low-energy handheld laser pointers should not be sold to children.”

The authors did not identify the location of the incident, but it may be Germany since three of the four authors’ institutions were in Germany. Additional analysis and commentary is below (click the “Read More…” link).

From Thanos S, Böhm MRR, Meyer zu Hörste M, et al. “Retinal damage induced by mirror-reflected light from a laser pointer” BMJ Case Reports. Retrieved online: 2015 Nov 05, doi:10.1136/bcr-2015- 210311.
Click to read more...

US: Two more laser pointer incidents at U.S. football games

In the week after widespread publicity when a laser was aimed at NFL Buffalo Bills players on Sunday October 5 2014, two other U.S. football-related incidents made the news. It is not known if these incidents were copycats, or were unrelated but were judged more newsworthy in the aftermath of the NFL case.

Hawaii college game interrupted by laser pointer


On Saturday October 11 2014, a football game between the University of Hawaii and the University of Wyoming was interrupted in the fourth quarter. A green laser light had been spotted on the field near Wyoming’s quarterback.

The referee stopped the game announced over the public address speakers, “There's a member of the stadium that has a laser pointer that continues to shine in the eyes of the offensive players. We're currently seeking game management and security to resolve that situation." The person was not found.

University of Hawaii officials said they believe the laser was more powerful than classroom pointers, which legally are limited to 5 milliwatts.

Under Hawaii Revised Statues, Chapter 136, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to possess a laser pointer. Shining a laser at a person can lead to up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

University of Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay was asked by KHON if he knew of any previous laser pointer incident. Jay told the TV station, “To my knowledge ... it really hasn’t happened at a college football game in recent memory that I can recall. But I think the spate of some of the recent NFL games that have been affected by lasers probably prompted this person to do such a really idiotic act.”

There may have been another laser pointer at the game, as well. A person in the press box told KHON he saw a red light “dancing for about two seconds or so .... which means there were probably at least two laser pointers used at game time.”

A spokesperson for the Mountain West athletic conference said he was not aware of any other laser incidents at Mountain West venues. The 12-college conference oversees intercollegiate sports including baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. He told KITV, “We have already communicated with all appropriate parties within the Conference to take whatever measures necessary to address and eliminate the use of laser pointers.”

Aloha Stadium officials said they would step up bag checks but that finding laser pointers on entering fans would be difficult.

From KHON2.com (story 1 and follow-up story 2) and KITV.com

Michigan high school game delayed due to laser pointer


On Friday October 10 2014, a football game between Walled Lake Western high school and Walled Lake Central high school was delayed for more than 10 minutes in the second quarter. A laser pointer was used to distract Walled Lake Western players during the game. According to MLive.com, “Play was stopped for an extended period of time as officials, police officers and other members of the school's security staff gathered to discuss the matter and attempt to put a stop to it. The culprit was not located, though no further issues arose involving a laser pointer.”

Walled Lake, Michigan is about 26 miles northwest of Detroit’s Ford Field, where the October 5 2014 laser pointer incident occurred during an NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills. Walled Lake is also 6 miles southwest of West Bloomfield Township, where Mark (or Marko) Beslach lives; he is the Detroit fan identified by ESPN and ABC News as the person who used the laser during the NFL game and was subsequently banned indefinitely from Ford Field.

Map of Detroit area
Map showing Walled Lake, West Bloomfield Township, and Detroit in relation to each other


From MLive.com

Australia: Lasers on rugby player in Argentina leads league to investigate

The SANZAR rugby organization said they will try to crack down on incidents of lasers being pointed at players.

The October 6 2014 statement came after Wallabies player Mike Harris had multiple red and green lasers aimed at him during a match in Argentina. He made seven of eight goals, missing one after he complained to the referee about laser harassment.

Wallabies laser Argentina
Screen capture shows a laser beam on Harris’ head during the match


Lasers were also aimed at Wallabies players during other games between the Australian and Argentine teams.

Harris seemed resigned to the situation, saying "I guess it is something a bit different and part and parcel of playing in Argentina. There's not much you can do so you've just got to move on.”

The Wallabies’ coach, Robbie Deans, also seemed to dismiss the laser louts: “Obviously, it [the use of lasers] was not ideal but it was not a major element and was resolved very quickly.”

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said the organization would investigate.

An unscientific poll of readers at the Green and Gold Rugby website, for Wallabies supporters asked about consequences of pointing lasers at players. The results after being up for about a day:

poll green and gold rugby laser


From the Courier-Mail and greenandgoldrugby.com. SANZAR stands for ‘South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby”

US: Maine man aims fake gun with laser pointer at cars; is arrested

A 22-year-old Maine man was arrested January 11 2014 for aiming a replica gun, which emits a laser beam from the barrel, at passing motorists including a police officer.

Replica gun laser pointer
The replica gun, emitting a red laser beam, used to harass motorists.


The officer was on patrol in Kittery, a seaside town at the southern tip of Maine, when he saw a red laser beam in his cruiser. He then saw the beam on other vehicles as well.

The officer pulled up behind the car of Seth Christman, and arrested him. Christman was charged with criminal use of a laser pointer under Maine Title 17-A Sec. 1002-A. The Class D misdemeanor prohibits intentionally pointing a laser beam at a police officer or a “reasonable person” for the purpose of intimidating and attempting to harm.

Christman’s next hearing in York District Court is set for March 5 2014.

From SeacoastOnline

US: Man buys pointer at Dallas Walmart, immediately aims at officer and is arrested

The Dallas Observer blog relates a story of a man who purchased a red laser pointer at a Dallas area Walmart, and immediately aimed it at a uniformed Dallas police officer. The officer had “temporary blindness” according to the story. The man, identified only as “Mr. Evans” was arrested and given a ticket with a fine of up to $500. The incident occurred at 3:45 am on April 11 2013.

From the Dallas Observer. As of April 12 2013, LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any other source for this story, including news articles and the Dallas Police Department website.

US: Suspicious red laser pointer in Mass. bathroom

“March 12, 2012, 2:54 a.m. A call was received from the Massachusetts State Police regarding a break in. A caller had called the state police reporting two shadows on the shade of the basement window on Franklin Street. Caller said he did not see any actual people, but he did see a red laser pointer in his bathroom.”

From the Mansfield, Mass. police log, as reported by Mansfield Patch

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: We monitor news reports of laser misuse. One reason for this is to try to get an idea of the relative rate of events such as harassment of the public and of sports figures, aiming at automobiles, aiming at airplanes, etc. We see relatively few reports such as the one above, but have listed it as part of this coverage.
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US: NY residents report red laser shined into home

The Scarsdale (New York) police department received a call from two residents reporting that a man dressed in black shined a red laser into their home. Police units investigated but could find no sign of the man or the laser pointer.

From Scarsdale Patch

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: We monitor news reports of laser misuse. One reason for this is to try to get an idea of the relative rate of events such as harassment of the public and of sports figures, aiming at automobiles, aiming at airplanes, etc. We see relatively few reports such as the one above, but have listed it as part of this coverage.
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US: Oregon man aims laser-sighted gun at deputy

Michael Coats, 48, was arrested October 10 2011 after he lased a sheriff’s deputy with the red dot from a laser-sighted .45 semi-automatic pistol. Coats said he aimed the laser and gun because the lights from the patrol vehicle were disturbing him. He was charged with menacing, reckless endangerment, unlawful use of a firearm, and pointing a weapon. The incident happened in Jefferson, Marion County, Oregon.

Pic 2011-10-23 at 12.23.13 PM
Michael Coats

From KVAL.com

US: Student injures policeman's eye during class lecture

A 16-year-old student has been charged with third-degree assault and battery after he aimed a red laser beam into the eye of a police officer. The officer said he immediately felt pain and had blurred vision. The officer confiscated the laser. He “received only a minor injury and is OK.”

The officer had been speaking at Union High School in Union, S.C. on the topic of negative classroom behavior.

From WYFF4.com and GoUpstate.com