A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Canada: One year conditional discharge for Winnipeg teen who aimed laser at police helicopter

Akshay Sharma, 19
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Sharma was given a one year conditional discharge sentence, plus 30 hours of community service, on December 21 2015 for aiming a laser pointer at a Winnipeg city police helicopter in June 2015. The aircrew was temporarily distracted and disoriented.

Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.

Scotland: One year in jail for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Craig Ryan, 23
Stevenston, North Ayrshire, Scotland

Craig Ryan laser

In September 2014, a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated several times with green laser light while looking for a gunman. The pilot had to take evasive action. The beam was tracked to Ryan’s home. Ryan told officers, “I’m sorry, it was me.”

In December 2015, Ryan admitted “culpable and reckless conduct.” He was sentenced to one year in jail.

From the Scotsman and BBC News

US: Five years probation for Calif. teen who took selfie while aiming laser at police helicopter

Christian Palomino, 19
Oakland, California, US


On June 7 2014, Palomino aimed a laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter that had to break off a search to deal with the laser. According to the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”

He was indicted August 28 2014, and later pleaded guilty to the crime.

On December 2 2015 Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft.

US: 5 years probation, 200 hours service for twice aiming a laser at a student helicopter pilot

Christopher Lee Funk, 35
Concord, North Carolina, US


Christopher Funk laser

On May 6, 2014, Christopher Funk aimed a laser pointer at a helicopter containing a student pilot and instructor. The aircraft was targeted as it practiced landing at the Cape Fear (N.C.) Regional Jetport near Oak Island. The helicopter moved to the far end of the runway for another practice landing but was again targeted. Funk was located by police; he told them he was drunk and did not remember much of the incident.

On May 11 2015, Funk pleaded guilty. He was sentenced in federal court on November 4 2015 to five years probation and 200 hours of community service.

US: One year in jail plus three months probation for lasing plane, helicopters

Enrique Felix Gomez, 19
Gardenia, California, US


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

Wales: Six months for Cardiff man, for aiming laser at four aircraft

Liam Chadwick, 28
St Mellons, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Liam Chadwick laser Wales

On August 1 2015, a Ryanair pilot reported seeing a green beam on takeoff from Bristol Airport. Two other aircraft had their flight paths altered because of the laser illumination. A police helicopter sent to locate the laser source found it was coming from a top-floor flat in eastern Cardiff. Ground police were sent.

After three minutes of knocking, Chadwick opened the door. Police found parts of a laser pen, which when re-assembled, produced green light.

The helicopter pilot had laser light go into his eye, and “had to see an optician to find out if he was fit to fly again,” according to the prosecutor at Chadwick’s October 2015 trial.

Chadwick’s barrister said “It was a laser pen he had bought for £1 and he didn’t realize or appreciate the consequences of what he was doing. He is deeply apologetic and says he wants to write a letter of apology to each of the pilots. He would never have played with a laser in the way he did if he had known it was a criminal act.”

Chadwick pleaded guilty to four counts of recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger aircraft (the three passenger planes and the police helicopter).

The trial judge rejected Chadwick’s plea for leniency due to his father being ill: “It was protracted behaviour, over a period of 20 minutes, and officers were directed to your home found you dismantling the pen. You say you are sorry, have entered an early guilty plea to reckless endangerment, and sadly your father is unwell. But such offences are becoming all too prevalent and it must be made absolutely plain to those who may buy these pens and behave in this way that custodial sentences are inevitable in order to deter others. In my view it is far too serious to be dealt with in any other way. The consequences to those travelling on those aircraft and to others on the ground could have been catastrophic.”

The judge sentenced Chadwick to six months in jail.

He was given an additional six months on an unrelated November 2014 charge of possessing cannabis with intent to supply, which had previously been suspended.

From the Guardian and Wales Online

US: Two years in prison for Calif. man who aimed "powerful green laser" at helicopter

Barry Lee Bowser, 52
Bakersfield, California, US

On September 28 2015, Bowser was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison plus three years of supervised release and a $10,000 “special assessment fee”, for aiming a “powerful green laser” at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.

From an FBI press release: “In June [2015], a federal jury found Bowser guilty of aiming 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, 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 published a public apology, which said that the incident had ruined his life: “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.”

Original LaserPointerSafety.com story here; story with complete apology letter here.

UK: 12-month conditional discharge and fees of £100 for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

Scott Christopher Brown, 26
Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, UK


On March 27 2015, a Humberside police helicopter was illuminated by laser light. On August 3 2015, Brown admitted the offense of shining a light so as to distract or dazzle a pilot.

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

US: $235 fine, 80 hours service for aiming laser at NFL Buffalo Bills player during Detroit Lions game

Marko Beslach, 17
West Bloomfield, Michigan, US


During a National Football League game on October 5 2014, Beslach aimed a laser pointer at Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton and kicker Dan Carpenter. Beslach was trying to distract the Bills players in their game against Beslach’s favored team, the Detroit Lions. The players were not injured and play did not seem to be affected.

Beslach was identified when he boasted about his laser use on Twitter.

On October 9 2014, the Detroit Lions banned Beslach from all future events at Ford Field. The season-ticket holder who accompanied Beslach — perhaps his father — had his tickets pulled for the remainder of the season.

In November 2014, Beslach pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. He was fined $235, had to do 80 hours of community service, and was given a one-year suspended sentence. He will have his case reviewed November 23 2015.

US: 6 months for targeting up to 25 aircraft in Portland

Stephen Francis Bukucs, 41
Portland, Oregon, US

Stephen Francis Bukucs laser

Bukucs was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison on March 16 2015 for two felony counts of aiming a laser pointer at commercial jetliners as they approached Portland International Airport in October 2013.

On July 15, 2014, Bukucs pleaded guilty to aiming his green laser at United Airlines Flight 1406 and Jet Blue Flight 1205 as they flew over his apartment in Northeast Portland on October 13, 2013. His arrest occurred after intense air and ground surveillance by FBI agents and police officers. Investigators reported over 100 laser strikes from the vicinity of defendant’s apartment in 2013, the government stated to the court.

After his prison term, Bukucs must also serve three years of supervised release. From an FBI news release.