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Laser May Have Caused Calif. Crash
MORGAN HILL, Calif. (AP) - Authorities detained a man accused of weaving in and out of
traffic at nearly 100 mph and shining a laser pointer, leading to a five-car wreck that
killed four teen-agers.
The California Highway Patrol would not say Tuesday night whether Scott Davis, 34, had been arrested. He crashed through a glass window of a San Jose home as authorities arrived to question him, Oakland TV station KTVU reported.
Davis was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, but a hospital spokeswoman would not comment.
Davis is believed to be the driver of a car that was speeding on Highway 101 late Monday. Witnesses said the driver was shining a laser pointer into other cars before the vehicle collided with a pickup, leading to the pileup.
All four occupants of one car - Charo Ursua, 19, Kevin Owens, 16, Janette Alvarado, 15,
and Michael Zaches, 17 - were killed.
Law enforcement officials partially blamed the accident on the laser pointer, made as an aid for business presentations and teachers. The Food and Drug Administration warned a year ago that the pointers could be more damaging to the eyes than staring at the sun.
A separate SFGate article, still available online as of February 2016, stated: “CHP [California Highway Patrol] investigators were trying to find out what role, if any, the laser pointer may have played in the crash. The pointers shine a bright dot and can cause a momentary loss of vision. ‘That's what's been going on with these laser lights with this craze the past six months,’ the CHP's DiSalvo said. ‘A lot of people use them to try to put fear in other people. . . . Some guns have these laser lights.’
From RIA Novosti
The Flagler County (FL) Sheriff’s Office said that William Merrill, 32, and his wife Stefanie were at their Palm Coast, Florida home in their master bathroom while their 3-year-old daughter was taking a bath. Merrill pointed the AK-47 at his wife to show her the laser’s beam. The two were talking about how bright the beam was when the gun fired once. Stefanie died at the scene.
On February 23, Merrill was arrested for manslaughter and for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had been convicted in 2007 on grand theft and other charges.
From the Orlando Sentinel
UPDATED October 30 2012 - William Merrill was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The minimum he could have received was 10 years, and the maximum was 30 years.
The “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” charge was dropped when Merrill pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge. (He could have received up to 45 years if given the maximum under both charges.)
During trial the prosecutor said “I don’t believe, and it’s not our position that Mr. Merrill intentionally killed his wife that morning.” But, he said, Merrill’s actions were egregiously reckless and disregarded safety.
When pronouncing sentence, the judge noted that Merrill had a stash of over 20 firearms and he violated the most basic of firearm rules. The judge concluded that it did not matter if it was an accident, Merrill was guilty of killing his wife.
Robert Sebbage and his friends had been shining lasers at taxis waiting in line outside a nightclub. The teens were rushed by two angry taxi drivers, brandishing a knife and a baseball bat. Sebbage was killed; Jordan Manson, 18, was taken to a hospital where he was operated on for stab wounds to the chest and neck. Three other teens were also taken to the hospital, with less serious injuries.
Taxi driver Stelios Morfis, 21, was charged with premeditated murder. A second driver was also arrested as an accomplice.
The stabbing happened in a resort town, Laganas, located on the Greek island of Zakynthos (Zante). The Telegraph noted that “in Laganas, the antics of young British tourists on ‘non-stop party’ holiday packages have provoked growing criticism from the Greek authorities and local residents.”
From The Telegraph. Thanks to Dr. Phil Tyley, Laser Safety Advisor, Senior Scientist, QinetiQ for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE July 18 2011: Jordan Manson’s parents describe the attack to The Mirror.
From The Daily Mail online. Caution: graphic photograph of the dead protester.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The soldier(s) most likely fired either due to the laser pointer provocation, or due to fearing that a weapon with a laser gunsight was being used. The laser pointer light could not harm the troops except possibly at close range if shone into the eyes. Of course, in a protest/street battle situation, soldiers are not going to know or care about the eye safety characteristics of laser pointers.
This is reminiscent of a 2005 case in Florida, where a man aimed a laser pointer at deputies and was shot and killed. It is unfortunate but understandable that those with weapons who are having a laser aimed at them may “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Concerned they were being targeted by a laser-sighted weapon, a deputy trained a spotlight on a second-floor window at the adjacent Boardwalk Apartments, and the laser stopped. Then the beam appeared again, this time focusing on the deputies' bodies and tracking them as they walked.
Deputies drove to the apartments to investigate. Within minutes, the man they say pointed the laser was dead.
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