A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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.

US: 15 months in prison for California man who aimed a laser at a sheriff's helicopter

Mario Deleon Lopez, 35
Santa Ana, California, US


Lopez was sentenced August 23 2016 to 15 months in federal prison for intentionally aiming a laser pointer at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

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.

US: Two years in prison for Ohio man who violated probation on laser pointer charge

Travis D. Krzysztofiak, 37
Boardman, Ohio, US


Travis Krzysztofiak laser

On June 15 2013, Krzysztofiak aimed a laser pointer at a medical helicopter coming to land at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio. In January 2014, he pleaded guilty to violating the 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

In May 2014 Krzysztofiak was sentenced to three years probation, nine months home monitoring, and 200 hours of community service. He also was required to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing, and to be in a detoxification program. (He had previous court records for drug and probation violations in 2005 and 2010.)

However, on August 24 2016, Krzysztofiak was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating his probation. The nature of the violation was not listed in court records.

US: 18 months for lasing a California sheriff's helicopter

Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26
Resides in Bakersfield, California, US; a citizen of Mexico


Sometime in 2015, Sahagun aimed a green laser pointer at a Kern County sheriff’s helicopter. He was convicted on April 18 2016 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

US: Thirteen months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter

Orlando Jose Chapa, 37
Dallas, Texas, US


Orlando Jose Chapa laser

On May 30 2015, Chapa was in his driveway when he aimed a laser pointer at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter. He was arrested on September 23, and pleaded guilty on November 3. Chapa was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison on February 18 2016.

US: 18 months in prison for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol airplane

David Walter Fee, 22
Fresno, California, US


Fee was sentenced September 29 2014 to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol aircraft. He could have received five years and a $250,000 fine for illuminating Air 43 up to 50 times with a “powerful green laser pointer” according to the FBI.

During the incident, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school.

Zarate’s co-defendent, Andrew Zarate, was sentenced November 3 2014 to one year in prison.

US: Two years in prison for Texas man who lased police helicopter

Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr., 25
Austin, Texas, US


Gabriel Soza Ruedas laser

Ruedas was sentenced October 2 2014 to two years in federal prison, with an additional three years probation after his release. On July 7 2014, he had pleaded guilty to one count of pointing a laser at an aircraft.

On February 15 2014, Ruedas aimed a laser at an Austin police department helicopter coming in to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The pilot was distracted, but was able to relay the laser’s location to ground officers who arrested Ruedas.

US: Two years for two-time laser offender in Las Vegas area

James David Zipf, 30
Henderson, Nevada, US


Zipf was sentenced to two years in prison on September 23 2014, for lasing police helicopters. He was also ordered to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

On January 30 2014, Zipf aimed a blue laser four times at a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department helicopter, from the second story window of his house. On February 3 2014 he twice aimed the laser at a LVMPD helicopter. In June 2014, Zipf pleaded guilty to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He was sentenced under the February 2012 U.S. federal law making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.

Zipf has been convicted in 2011 in Phoenix of pointing a blue laser at a police helicopter. It is not known what fine or sentence, if any, came out of the 2011 conviction.

US: Two years for 24-year-old woman

Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24
Clovis, California, US


In the summer of 2012, Coleman and her then-boyfriend, Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26, were arrested for repeatedly aiming a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter. It had been called out to investigate an earlier illumination of a children’s hospital medical helicopter. On May 12 2014, Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for aiming a laser pointer at a law enforcement aircraft. Rodriguez had earlier been sentenced to 14 years in prison: eight for the laser incident and an additional six due to his prior criminal record.

UPDATED October 29 2016: Coleman’s sentence was revoked after review by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She received five years probation instead. From Courthouse News Service

US: 21 months for Calif. man "who can't help himself from doing stupid things"

Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 23
Clovis, California, US


On January 27 2014, Mahaffey was sentenced to 21 months in prison for aiming a “powerful red laser” at a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. The pilot was distracted by the light and broke off the mission. In November 2013 Mahaffey pleaded guilty, saying he knew it was a crime to point a laser at an aircraft but said he “just can’t help himself from doing stupid things.”

US: Texas man gets 18 months in prison for aiming at Homeland Security helicopter

Magarito Tristan III, 28
Donna, Texas, US


Margarito Tristan laser
On September 25 2013, Magarito Tristan III was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his term, for aiming a laser pointer at a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter. The 28-year-old from Donna, Texas, had previously pleaded guilty in July 2013 to one felony count of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He has been in custody since the March 7 2013 incident. The pilot wrote to the court that he felt he was under attack and that bullets would be fired at the aircraft.

US: 2 years jail, 3 years probation for lasing helicopter; earlier fine of $9,000

Michael A. Smith
Omaha, Nebraska, US

On July 22 2013, Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison to be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. He had been convicted April 24 2013 of aiming a laser at an Omaha police helicopter “six or seven times” on July 11 2012. The police were looking for the source of an earlier red laser aimed at a Southwest Airlines flight that was landing in Omaha. According to one news report, Smith had previously been fined $9,000 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

US: 2 years in prison, $500 in court costs

Clint Jason Brenner, 36
Prescott, Arizona, US

Pasted Graphic

On December 9 2009, Brenner illuminated an Arizona police helicopter with a green laser pointer. He was found guilty of two counts of endangerment in April 2010. Brenner was sentenced on May 24 2010 to two years on each count, with the terms to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay $500 in court costs.

US: 15 months in prison, 3 years probation

Nathan Ramon Wells, 19
Cathedral City (near Palm Springs), California, US



On June 3 2009, Wells aimed a green laser at a California Highway Patrol helicopter. In July 2010, he pleaded guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft. Wells was sentenced October 25 2010. The assistant U.S. attorney said "This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time."

US: 18 months in prison

Lenny Tavarez, 19
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

In October 2008, Tavarez aimed a laser at a Philadelphia police helicopter. The pilot was temporarily blinded, felt a sudden intense pain in his eye, and “lost control”; his co-pilot took over. Tavarez was sentenced May 13 2011.

UK: 16 months in prison

Joshua Bough, 28
Small Heath, Birmingham, UK

On March 28 2011, Bough aimed at laser pointer at a police helicopter. He tried to claim he was aiming to help find a lost puppy; the judge said this "did not ring true." Bough pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft and was sentenced August 24 2011.