A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

News: Non-aviation incidents


This webpage has a chronological list of selected laser pointer incidents that are NOT related to aviation. We also have news pages for aviation incidents, and for all other laser pointer news (includes overall statistics about incidents, new laws and regulations, and safety warnings and publications). In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.

We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.

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US: Woman uses laser gunsight to play with cat; gun goes off and hits man

On August 10 2021, an apparently drunk teenager in Kenosha, Wisconsin was using the laser sight on a friend's handgun to play with her cat. The 19-year-old thought the gun was empty, but it fired during the laser play. Her 21-year-old friend was shot in his leg. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The teen was charged with negligent use of a weapon. The man was charged with violating bond conditions that prevented him from having a weapon.

From AP News. Thank you to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

Palestine & Israel: Palestinians use laser pointers to protest West Bank occupation

Palestinians used laser pointers and air horns to annoy illegal Israeli settlers during a weekslong protest. The demonstrations were said to be "grassroots" and not inspired by the Fatah or Hamas movements.


2021-08 Palestinan protests in West Bank
Handheld laser pointers being used by Palestinian protesters


From the
Daily Sabah. Additional pictures of the laser pointer use is at the link.

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

It does not appear the laser pointers were being used against police or soldiers, and it does not appear that the demonstrators were trying to harm persons. Instead, the laser use was to "annoy" illegal settlers and to gain attention for the cause.

US: Car drives by homes, aiming lasers at them

Persons driving by homes near Wilmington, Ohio have been aiming green laser beams at the houses. There were three reports filed with police, and additional unofficial reports made on social media.

Homeowners are concerned about the safety hazards of the lasers, which are of unknown power and intensity. The Clinton County Sheriff's office is worried as well about the lasers possibly being aimed at other cars or at aircraft.

laser aimed at homes in Wilmington Ohio
Enlargement of a video, taken by a homeowner, showing two lasers being aimed out the side windows of a car.


From Fox19

UK: €30000 fine for laser aimed at goalkeeper during European Cup semifinal

On July 7 2021 during a semifinal match in the European Cup, Denmark's goalkeeper had a laser shone in his face by a supporter of the English team. The laser attack came during an extra-time penalty kick. The goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, was able to save the penalty but then England penalty kicker Harry Kane kicked the rebound in to score the winning goal. On that goal, England advanced to the Euro Cup final with Italy.

Three days later the English Football Association was fined €30000 (USD $35,600), primarily for the laser attack but also for two other disturbances (fireworks and booing) perpetrated by England fans.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) makes associations and clubs liable for inappropriate behavior on the part of their supporters "even if they can prove the absence of any negligence in relation to the organisation of the match." Article 16, section 2d of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations prohibits the use of "laser pointers or other similar electronic devices."

Schmeichel had told a referee that he was being targeted by a laser, prior to the penalty kick. After the match, he told the press "I did not experience it on the penalty kick because it was behind me on my right side. But I did experience it in the second half. I told the referee. And he went to say something to the other officials."

The goalkeeper did not indicate that the laser directly affected or impaired his play.


2021-07-07 goalkeeper laser just before penalty kick
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, with laser light on his face near his eye, just before the penalty kick.


According to the Daily Mail, "The torch-style gadgets have been a problem at sporting events for some time - affecting Wayne Rooney and Jose Mourinho - but in recent years have been rarely seen at football matches. There is a law relating to them being used to endanger vehicles but would not cover individuals. It may be the offence would fall under an assault category."

Metropolitan Police were said to be considering a criminal probe as the match site, Wembley Stadium, falls under their jurisdiction.

From the Daily Mail and MSN. Thank you to Alberto Kellner for first bringing this to our attention.

UK: Protesters claim HS2 is aiming lasers at them; HS2 denies

Persons in a protest camp occupying trees near a HS2 (British high speed rail phase 2) construction site claimed that HS2 security guards aimed laser pens at them. A video showing a green laser beam coming through trees was sent to a local newspaper a few days after a May 5 2021 incident where a green laser injured a HS2 subcontractor.

2021-05-12 HS2 claimed laser 01 squashed
A laser is aimed through the trees…

2021-05-12 HS2 claimed laser 02 squashed
… and towards the camera lens


A protester said the laser beam was coming from the direction of the HS2 compound, and crossed the busy A413 roadway, posing a danger to passing vehicles.

HS2 reviewed the video. They said "none of HS2’s security teams carry laser pointers or pens – it would be irresponsible and unsafe to do so." They also pointed out that the video is not clear regarding the laser location or the person who is using the laser.

From the Bucks Free Press

UK: Green laser causes "grievous bodily harm" in daytime to man

A man in his 50s suffered "grievous bodily harm" from a green laser that was aimed towards him at 2:15 pm local time on May 5 2021. The man was at a HS2 (British high speed rail network phase 2) construction site near Wendover, Buckinghamshire when the laser light entered both of his eyes. He had blurred eyesight for 15 minutes, preventing him from working. Later he had pain in his eyes and went to hospital for unspecified treatment.

Two other persons were illuminated by the laser but did not have eye effects.

Thames Valley Police are seeking information about the exposure.

From The Bucks Herald

NOTE: This appears related to protests over HS2 railway construction through the scenic Jones' Hill Wood area of Buckinghamshire. A few days later, a protester claimed that HS2 security personnel aimed a laser at their protest camp in the woods.

US: Police log complaint of laser aimed at traffic

A review of the Tuolumme (California) County Sheriff's Department activity logs for April 5 2021 shows the following:

06:41 CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL 2104050015
Occurred at Tuolumne Rd/Eagle Ridge Dr, in Sonora. Rpts someone is flashing a green laser pointer at traffic. Resp is on the left side of the road near eagle ridge on the hill. ///transferred to chp. . Disposition: Referred To Other Agency.


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

This is part of our coverage of incidents where lasers are aimed at vehicles. While we do not publish all news reports of lasers aimed at aircraft, we try to publish all reports we see of lasers aimed at vehicles.

There are no studies or statistics regarding the relative frequency of aircraft lasings vs. vehicle lasings. Because the latter are rarely reported, we do list all vehicle-related incident reports we see.

US: Man in car aims laser gun sight at runner; later shoots motorist

A video posted on Instagram on March 31 2021 shows a man in a car aiming a gun's laser sight at a runner on an Orlando sidewalk. The red laser dot is not steady but hits the man a number of times.

Traviance Polite Jr laser at runner 200w squashed    Traviance Polite Jr laser from car 200w squashed

Police were able to find the runner. At the time, he had thought that kids were playing around with a laser pointer. A detective said "He remembers the incident. He thought it was just some kids playing around with a laser pointer. So when I told him — and I actually showed him the video — he was shocked. He could not believe it.”

Police saw other social media with the same gun. They determined the owner was 19-year-old Traviance Polite Jr. They began surveillance to try and catch him with the gun.

They were not able to do so before an armed assault on April 6 2021. In a possible road rage incident, Polite fired twice from his car, over his pregnant girlfriend in the passenger seat, through the passenger window and into a neighboring car. The driver of that car was badly hurt and went to a hospital.

Traviance Polite Jr laser suspect 150w squashed
Traviance Polite Jr.


Polite was arrested the next day and provided police with a full confession to both crimes.

He charged with attempted second-degree murder, shooting from a vehicle, reckless display of a gun, carrying a concealed gun, and possession of a gun by a known delinquent.

From Clickorlando.com

US: Reports of protesters aiming lasers at drivers near Oregon capitol

In Salem, the capital city of Oregon, sporadic vandalism and violence has occurred between liberal and conservative protesters. On March 28 2021, police tweeted "We have received reports that vehicles driving past the capitol are being struck with balloons filled with paint and green lasers being pointed at drivers." Many or most of those vehicles had pro-Trump displays of support; the attackers were said to be Antifa.

Three arrests were made, including 18-year-old Anthony Villaneda who was charged with five counts of unlawful pointing of a laser.

From Business and Politics Review and a press release issued March 28, 2021 by the Salem Police Department.

US: Pointing lasers at Scientology cameras leads to Florida man's arrest

A Florida man was arrested March 22 2021 for aiming a laser pointer at security cameras on three Church of Scientology buildings in Clearwater Florida. Footage from the cameras showed the man pointing at the cameras on February 26 2021. Black dots on subsequent footage were allegedly due to the laser beam damaging the cameras' sensors.

Robert Harris, 76, was charged with one count of felony criminal mischief. According to police, the damage cost was $2,091 to a total of six cameras on the three buildings.

On February 2 2021 Harris began providing tours of Scientology's locations in Clearwater, which is the location for the spiritual headquarters of the church and for the largest single Church of Scientology. During the tour Harris would point out the various surveillance cameras on the Scientology buildings.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, after his arrest Harris said "he usually carries a laser in his pocket to point at things, especially the night sky. But he said he never intended to damage Scientology’s buildings and now wishes there were an easier way to resolve his felony charge. 'I’d be happy to pay for the damages and write a letter of apology.' "

From the Tampa Bay Times. More information on laser pointers' potential for damaging cameras is here.

US: Indiana man used laser pointer to attract, expose self to child

Justin Crowell, 43, is accused of exposing himself multiple times to a 14-year-old girl between August 1 and October 29 2020. This occurred on approximately 10-15 separate occasions at his Valparaiso, Indiana home.

On one occasion, used a laser pointer to gain the girl's attention to his bedroom window. He then pointed laser laser light at his exposed genitals.

According to a story from NWI.com, "Police said they responded to a similar complaint about Crowell from a different address in March 2019. Crowell told police at that time he was unaware others could see in his window."

On February 26 2021, Crowell was jailed and charged with indecent exposure, a misdemeanor.

From NWI.com

US: Coast Guard looking for info on Florida laser strike

From a news article by the U.S. Coast Guard, issued January 22 2021:

Coast Guard seeks information after rescue crews lasered near Riviera Beach

MIAMI — Coast Guard Investigative Service agents are seeking information pertaining to a person or persons pointing a laser light on three separate occasions at Coast Guard rescue crews while underway near Singer Island.

Following the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act, it is a federal offense to point lasers at Coast Guard vessels and cause bodily injury to an officer. Offenders of this federal offense can receive up to $25,000 in civil penalty fines. Criminal penalties can face up to 25 years imprisonment.

It is a federal offense to direct laser pointers at aircraft under 18 U.S.C 39A and offenders can face up to five years imprisonment.

“Pointing a laser at any Coast Guard vessel or aircraft is extremely dangerous and a federal crime,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Zinna James, CGIS Southeast region. “We encourage anyone with information about these incidents to report then to the CGIS tips app.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact CGIS at https://www.p3tips.com/tipform.aspx?ID=878#

US: Coast Guard looking for info on Alaska laser strike

From a news article by the U.S. Coast Guard, issued January 22 2021:

Coast Guard seeks information after laser strike hits Ketchikan boat crew

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Coast Guard is seeking information from the public in locating a suspect or suspects who pointed a green laser light at the cabin of a Station Ketchikan boat crew conducting underway operations Saturday night.

The laser strike occurred around 8:45 p.m., while the boat crew transited north in the Tongass Narrows. The point of origin reportedly came from an area near the intersection of Baranof Avenue and Carlanna Lakes Road.

The crew aboard the 45-foot Response Boat-Medium immediately averted their eyes and transited north out of range of the laser. Laser pointers can cause danger to Coast Guard boat crews due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision.

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews,” said Capt. Stephen White, commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “It is important for the public to understand that using these lasers irresponsibly is dangerous. It not only puts our boat crews at risk, but it also degrades our ability to respond in emergency situations, which means we may not be able to help if a mariner needs us.”

Causing the beam of a laser pointer to strike a vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States is a felony crime under 46 U.S. Code Section 70014.

Coast Guard Investigative Service agents are working to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact investigators at 907-463-2117 or anonymously at CGIS tips: https://www.p3tips.com/tipform.aspx?ID=878#

US: Protester accused of aiming laser at officers' eyes has felony charges dropped on technicality

A Black Lives Matter protester charged with nine felony counts of aiming a laser pointer in the eyes of police officers, had the charges dropped on January 14 2021 because prosecutors waited 46 days to file charges; the deadline is 45 days.

An additional six counts of aggravated misdemeanor assault, related to the felony counts, can proceed since they were filed on time.

The protester is accused of aiming a laser at the eyes of several University of Iowa police officers during an August 31 2020 protest in Iowa City. The officers reported temporary vision loss, headaches and "other health problems."

To convict on the misdemeanor counts, prosecutors will have to show that the protester intended to inflict serious injury on the officers when he aimed a laser at them.

The 25-year-old protester was named Matthew Bruce at the time of the protests, and said he has since changed his name to Mate Farrakhan Muhammad.

From The Gazette and the Des Moines Register

US: Coast Guard looking for info on Portland laser strike

From a news release by the U.S. Coast Guard, issued January 15 2021:

Coast Guard seeks information after laser strike hits Portland boatcrew

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Coast Guard is seeking information from the public in locating a suspect or suspects who pointed a green laser light at the cabin of a Station Portland boatcrew conducting underway operations Tuesday night.

Coast Guard crews from Station Portland have been struck with lasers several times in the past six months.

The latest laser strike occurred around 10 p.m. and reportedly came from a building on the southern shore of the Willamette River west of the Fremont Bridge.

The crew aboard the 29-foot Response Boat-Small immediately conducted an on-scene health assessment after the strike and then safely transited back to base. Laser pointers can cause danger to Coast Guard boatcrews due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision.

"Laser incidents are incredibly dangerous, put the safety of our boatcrews in jeopardy and degrade our ability to navigate and respond to emergencies," said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, enforcement chief, Sector Columbia River. "We ask the public to understand the dangers associated with playing with lasers and how they disrupt our crews from responding to mariners in distress."

Causing the beam of a laser pointer to strike a vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States is a felony crime under 46 U.S. Code Section 70014.

Coast Guard Investigative Service agents are working to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact investigators via: https://www.p3tips.com/tipform.aspx?ID=878#

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A story in the Takoma News Tribune discusses the result of the health assessment: "The crew was evaluated on scene, but a spokesperson for Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest told McClatchy News in a phone interview that it cannot release the crew’s medical information."

US: Laser pointers used in Jan. 6 Capitol attack?

A Washington Post article on the January 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol mentions laser pointers being used as weapons.

The relevant paragraph states: "D.C. police said Monday [Jan. 11] that one District officer remained hospitalized. They described many of the injuries as sprains and bruised arms and legs, but many others appear far more serious and caused by repeated blows from sticks, poles and clubs and laser pointers shined into officers’ eyes."

From the Washington Post

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

Besides this one reference, LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any other account or claim of laser pointer misuse during the Capitol attack.

There are videos of a rioter aiming a bright handheld spotlight at officers. We do not know if these are Capitol Police, or D.C. police called in to assist.

In the top screenshot, it appears an officer at the right side of the doorway is aiming a similar spotlight out towards the rioters. At bottom center is the only protester we have found with a light.

Spotlight aimed at officers during Capitol riot January 6 2021

Pic 2021-01-12 at 6.19.38 PM sharpened 600w squashed
Click on either photo for link to original video

The bottom screenshot, from a video by Brendan Gutenschwager (@bgonthescene - Twitter) shows the spotlight. Despite the bright yellow sticker, after extensive searching we have not been able to find the model of the spotlight. Here is one that is similar:

Pic 2021-01-12 at 7.54.41 PM 600w squashed

It is not known if the rioter's spotlight was misidentified as a laser pointer, or whether there were laser pointers used elsewhere.

In extensive viewing of footage taken inside and outside the Capitol during the event, we have not been able to spot any laser light or other signs of pointer usage.

The riot took place during daylight hours, when laser pointers typically are not used during protests. There was a 6 pm curfew, enforced by D.C. police and other officers. It may be that pointers were used at dusk or after sunset which was at 5:02 pm that day.

In conclusion, if there was any laser pointer misuse at during the U.S. Capitol riot, it appears to be minor or inconsequential (or non-existent) compared with misuse at U.S. protests earlier in the summer.

For more information: We have listings of LaserPointerSafety.com stories tagged "protester", "riots", and "arrests at protest." We also have a page about Laser use during protests.

Singapore: Woman claims laser harassment as a result of accident

A Singaporean woman who fell into a manhole has filed a lawsuit five years later claiming physical and mental injuries including feeling the heat from laser beams being aimed at her home.

In December 2015 Chan Hui Peng, then 42 years old, fell into a manhole maintained by Singapore's National Water Agency, known as "PUB". She landed on her rear. PUB officers took her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with trauma, hip bruises, and a broken ankle. For the next four months she went to a rehabilitation hospital.

Beginning in March 2016 she had mental issues, including headaches, a PTSD diagnosis in March 2017, claims of paranoia in October 2018, a diagnosis of schizophrenia in February 2020, and sometime in 2020 "she said she felt the heat from laser beams while she was on her bed."

Her lawsuit, containing thousands of pages of medical and clinical notes, asks for SGD $5 million (USD $3.76 million).

A lawyer for PUB's insurer said Chan "has made a mountain out of a molehill and has seized the opportunity to capitalize on the injuries she allegedly sustained." He disputed claims for loss of future earnings and future medical expenses.

From the Straits Times

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

Madame Chen's claim of feeling heat from (almost certainly nonexistent) laser beams is a common symptom of persons claiming laser harassment.

About 10-15 times a year, we receive a call or email from persons saying they are harassed by persons aiming lasers at them. In most cases there appears to be no reasonable external explanation. The feelings of heat, light and/or paranoia must be coming from within the person. Unfortunately, their symptoms, pain and fear are real to the sufferer.

This is discussed at greater length on our page If you are harassed by lasers, in the sections about unknown and mysterious laser sources.

Our conclusion is that Madame Chen is not making up the "heat from laser beam" complaint. She really does feel hot spots — but there is almost certainly no laser involved. Instead, this is one of the symptoms of her mental condition, along with the paranoia that also often accompanies claims of mysterious laser heat and light.

US: Minnesota woman arrested at protest for aiming laser into police officer's eyes

A teenager was arrested on November 4 2020 for aiming a laser directly into a Minneapolis officer's eyes during an anti-Trump protest that took place on Interstate 94.

The officer was wearing safety glasses and was not harmed.

A laser pointer was found on 19-year-old Amina T. Mussa McCaskill. She admitted aiming at the officer.

Amina T. Mussa McCaskill laser squashed
Amina T. Mussa McCaskill

She was charged on November 6 with one count of felony second-degree riot.

More than 600 people were arrested after protesters blocked the Interstate highway.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

US: Pennsylvania man charged with repeatedly assaulting police officers with a laser during protests

A 26-year-old man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania repeatedly aimed a green laser beam into the eyes of police officers during protests on September 14 and 15 2020.

When approached to be arrested, the man tried to incite a crowd to assist him. He later gave false information to the police.

Pedro Junior Velasquez is charged with seven felonies and dix misdemeanors, including aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

Pedro Junior Velasquez laser squashed
Pedro Junior Velasquez


From Fox43.com, Lancaster Online, and PennLive

US: Protest roundup

Here are some U.S. protests where lasers were used and/or aimed at officers. Click the link to the original story for details. These are in addition to more detailed stories here at LaserPointerSafety.com with the tag Protester and in the category Arrests at protests.

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois


One hundred fifty people called for abolition of the university police department. "This Halloween protest was more aggressive than those by previous Northwestern protest groups. According to information from City Manager Erika Storlie, members of the group came with umbrellas, fireworks, spray-paint cans and laser pointers. Some threw rocks or lit fireworks in the direction of police officers; others shined the laser pointers in the eyes of the officers." From a November 1 2020 story in the Evanston RoundTable.

Washington, DC


A laser was pointed at a U.S. Park Police helicopter during protests in front of the Fourth District police station. Also, Washington, DC police said "one of their officers was injured when a protester shone a laser in his eyes" on October 28. From a November 1 2020 story from FOX5.

San Diego, California


38-year-old Stephen Glenn McLeod aimed a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter multiple times, during a protest on August 28 2020. He was arraigned October 20 on a federal felony charge which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. His next court date is November 20. From an October 20 2020 story from NBC San Diego.

San Diego, California


24-year-old Rudy Alvarez was charged with aiming a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter during a large demonstration in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, on June 6 2020. The crew said the light impeded their ability to safety operate the helicopter. From a June 10 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California.

Portland, Oregon


Beginning in June 2020, there were many protests in Portland with significant use of lasers. A general internet search will find these. LaserPointerSafety.com has focused on stories about alleged eye injuries (most were temporary flashblindness; none were permanent) and about arrests. Searching for the tag Portland will find the LaserPointerSafety.com stories.

US: Passenger targets other cars using laser pointer

On October 18 2020, a passenger in a car was targeting occupants of other vehicles by aiming a laser pointer at them.

The Dutchess County (NY) Sheriff's Office received a call at 1 am about a laser being aimed at cars. A detective sent to investigate and search for the suspicious vehicle had a laser beam aimed into his face and eyes. He turned on his lights and pursued the car, which drove away at high speed in a "reckless manner."

The suspicious car pulled over. One person was charged with second degree reckless endangerment. The driver was charged with reckless driving and other traffic infractions.

The Sheriff's Office put out a call for any persons who were targeted by the suspect.

From WPDH.com

US: Teen stares into laser pointer, has retinal damage

An Ohio teenager injured his retina after deliberately looking for a few seconds into a laser pointer designed for playing with pets, according to a medical journal report.

The unnamed teen initially had vision loss for several minutes due to flashblindness (looking into a bright light).

Five months later the boy went to an Ohio State University ophthalmologist due to continually-blurred vision with partial loss of vision in his right eye. Vision tests showed his left eye vision was normal. But if looking at text with his right eye, a single letter would be missing. When using only his left eye, or when using both eyes together, he could see the missing letter.

A standard clinical exam showed lesions in both eyes that were diagnosed as lesions in the macula, the area within the retina that we use for our central vision. The macula has the most and densest packing of light-detecting cones.

Tests done six months after the first doctor visit showed "marked improvement" in both eyes.

Further analysis was done with a custom-built adaptive optics optical coherence tomography scanning laser ophthalmoscope that is only one of five in the United States. This gives a very high-resolution view of the retina — much better than the human eye or more conventional retinal imaging techniques.

The AO-OCT-SLO image taken 11 months after the laser exposure showed damage to some of the macular cones. The ophthalmologist said "There's just nothing left there. The affected areas are devoid of cones."

laser-damage-right-eye_resize_md
AO-OCT-SLO image of lesions A through E with small sites of cone loss (B, C, and D) in the teen's right eye. Each white dot is an individual cone cell, which is about 1/20th the width of a human hair. There are around six to seven million cones in the retina. Lesions A and E are about as wide as two hairs; lesions B-D are less than the width of a hair. Image source: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. / Ohio State University


Another AO-OCT-SLO image taken nine months later showed the lesions decreased in size, from 3.7% to 23.8% compared to the first image. "However, the longer-term prognosis is likely permanent scarring," according to the report.

Original report in Retinal Cases & Brief Reports, summarized in an Ohio State News story. Other stories about this appeared in Science Alert and Interesting Engineering,

US: Portland man charged with assaulting police officers with laser during August 2020 protests

A 36-year-old Portland, Oregon man, Bryan Michael Kelley, was arrested on September 3 2020 for aiming a laser at a Portland Police Bureau officer's eyes on August 25 2020.

Bryan Michael Kelley Portland laser squashed
Bryan Michael Kelley


The following is from a
news article issued by the Portland Police Bureau:


On September 3, 2020, Portland Police Bureau detectives arrested 36 year old Bryan Michael Kelley, and served a search warrant at his residence, during an investigation into criminal activity he was alleged to be involved in near City Hall, last week.

During the evening of August 25, 2020, a group of people gathered in Shemanski Park, in downtown Portland, and walked to City Hall. Within minutes of arriving, people within the group began committing crimes in and around City Hall.

Among those in the crowd that night was Mr. Kelley. Members of the Portland Police Bureau Rapid Response Team (RRT) responded to City Hall to restore order. At least one member of RRT realized that Mr. Kelley had repeatedly directed a laser into the RRT member's eyes, causing injury. Eventually, members of RRT were able to locate and arrest Mr. Kelley near Southwest 4th Avenue and Southwest Jefferson Street. He was found to be in possession of a laser (photo).

Bryan Michael Kelley laser next to phone squashed
Silver laser device, next to phone to show scale. See
this story for more information about this model of laser.


Detectives later tested the laser by pointing it at a piece of cardboard, which caused the cardboard to burn. Such lasers can be purchased online and are usually accompanied by warnings about harm they can cause, especially to the eyes. https://youtu.be/dcR_xkpOuNQ

Click to read more...

US: Portland man charged with assaulting police officers with laser during June 2020 protests

A 24-year-old Portland, Oregon man, William Grant Reuland, was charged on September 8 2020 with civil disorder for assaulting police officers with a high-powered laser pointer on June 13 and 14 2020. The following is an excerpt from a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon, detailing Reuland's case:

According to court documents, at approximately 10:00 p.m. on June 13, 2020, a civil disturbance was declared when a crowd gathered around the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. A Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officer watching the crowd from the roof of the Justice Center observed two individuals, one later identified as Reuland, allegedly standing in the middle of the street and repeatedly hitting several officers in the face with high-powered lasers.

The officer moved to a lower floor and was able to photograph Reuland. The officer kept track of Reuland as the crowd was dispersed. In the early morning hours of June 14, 2020, Reuland joined a group of individuals marching from the Justice Center to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s personal residence. Reuland was observed shining a laser at the Mayor’s residence and at other homes in the neighborhood. The officer who originally spotted Reuland with the laser, tracked his location until Reuland was contacted by other officers and taken into custody for assaulting a public safety officer. He was later released by state authorities.

On September 4, 2020, U.S. Marshals Service deputies arrested Reuland at his residence in northwest Portland.

US: 113 federal agents in Portland said to be injured by protesters' lasers; none were permanently blinded

Thirty-five federal officers incurred 113 eye injuries during protests in Portland, according to Senate testimony from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official: "35 officers have reported eye-injuries due to being targeted with higher power laser-pins [sic] causing momentary-blindness, blurred-vision, dark spots in their vision and headaches."

All officers recovered their sight, according to deputy director Ken Cuccinelli, speaking on August 4 2020. This appears to include the "three officers who currently have eye injuries and [who] may not recover sight." This statement was said on July 21 2020 by a Federal Protective Services official. (FPS is a division of DHS.) Some persons who repeated this, such as the White House press secretary and the Attorney General, repeated the "may not" qualifier, while others — generally news or commentators — said flatly that officers were permanently blinded.

Cuccinelli said "We've had a number of officers who have days-long blindness. So far they've all come back, if you will. But you also get what's called flash blindness … where you can't quite see your entire field of vision for a period." [As explained below, flash blindness is not an "eye injury" and should not have been included in the total of 113 "eye injuries.]

Cuccinelli told the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution that protesters began aiming at police from closer distances. Since laser beams spread out, this reduces the spread and thus increases the hazard potential. Protesters do this, he said, so police cannot identify suspects.

2020-08-04 DHS Senate hearing commercial grade laser CSPAN squashed


Cuccinelli demonstrated what he called a "commercial grade" laser by aiming it into his hand and saying it got hot within a second or two. He said such a laser could be purchased on Amazon.com.

Click to read more...

US: Three officers in Portland may be permanently blinded

On July 21 2020, a federal official told a press conference that three federal agents in Portland, Oregon may have been permanently blinded during demonstrations at a federal courthouse. [See the August 4 2020 update at the end of this story, where it appears the three officers are OK.]

Claims of eye injuries


Officers were attempting to defend the building. "When [Federal Protective Service] officers responded to put out these fires, glass bottles were thrown and lasers – which can cause permanent blindness – were shined in their eyes. We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks," said FPS Deputy Director of Operations Richard Cline.

The assertion was repeated on July 24 by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: "….tragically, three federal officers were likely left permanently blinded by the rioters using lasers pointed directly into their eyes." On July 28, Attorney General William P. Barr, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in his prepared remarks that "A number of federal officers have been injured, including … three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind."

Some news sources and commentators stated flatly that the officers are permanently blind. Lost or ignored was the fact that there was only one official statement on the prognosis ("they currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight").

Reporters noted red, green and purple laser beams aimed at officers through the courthouse doors. At least one person may be charged. According to the Associated Press, "[c]ourt papers in a federal case against a man accused of shining a laser in the eyes of Federal Protective Service agents show that Portland police turned him over to U.S. authorities after federal officers identified him." ProPublica reported that the charging documents said an agent "reported seeing spots in his eyes for 15 minutes after the laser attack. [As of November 9 2020, LaserPointerSafety,com is aware of two cases against individuals, one from June 2020 and one from August 2020.]

Force authorized against laser attacks


In response, Customs and Border Protection has authorized the use of "less-lethal force" against protesters with lasers. CBP said in a memo that pepper spray balls or beanbag shotguns are allowed because lasers aimed at eyes or through camera lenses are "remarkably dangerous because of their concentrated energy."

Protesters using lasers would first be issued a verbal warning. Then CBP agents targeted would decide whether less-lethal force is justified. The calculation should be based on the crime committed and the level of danger.

“Officers/agents are authorized by law to use objectively reasonable force to effect the arrest and protect against harm to the officer/agent or others,” wrote Charles A. Bishop, who oversees the agency’s law enforcement compliance directorate. “Officers/agents should consider all reasonable tools, tactics and equipment to cease an assault with a handheld laser in accordance with CBP Use of Force Policy and U.S. constitutional standards.”

Bishop said without a threat of serious bodily injury or death, “CBP does not recognize the threat of handheld visible lasers as one that would require a deadly force response.”

Eyewear purchased to defend against lasers


To defend themselves the Federal Protective Service is buying 1,000 pairs of Stingerhawk FT-2 Laser Protective Eyewear from Revision Military. In its sole-source contract document dated July 10 2020, FPS said "readily accessible and affordable" lasers can cause dark spots, hazy vision, headaches or retinal bleeding. The contract also noted that Seattle police officers who used laser-resistant glasses "expressed that they were very effective."

From Fox News (initial blinding report), the New York Post (White House statement), Politico (AG Barr statement), the Associated Press via MSN (court papers), ProPublica (15 minutes of spots), the Washington Times (CBP response), Williamette Week (FPS eyewear)

For more information, see the page
Laser use during protests and LaserPointerSafety.com news articles about non-laser eye injuries during protests.

UPDATE AUGUST 4 2020: The three officers said to possibly have permanent blindness appear to be OK, with their sight recovered. In Senate testimony, a Department of Homeland Security official said there were 113 eye injuries to federal officers in Portland, and "[s]o far they've all kind of come back". The Federal Protective Service is part of DHS, so the official's statement would have included the three injured officers.

Hong Kong: Man acquitted on charge of posessing laser pointer weapon during protests

A 39-year-old man was acquitted on July 24 2020 of having weapons including a baton and a laser pointer in the trunk of his car during September 2019 unrest in Hong Kong.

Ng Kai-nam testified he picked up four hitchhikers going to a demonstration. He told them to leave their bags in the car, and that he did not realize there were items defined as weapons in the bags.

The acting principal magistrate ruled that Ng knew the protesters had prohibited weapons, but found him not guilty since prosecutors were unable to prove if he knew the nature of the weapons.

From the South China Morning Post

Hong Kong: 100 hours community service for shining lasers at police

A 37-year-old bank manager was sentenced July 23 2020 to 100 hours of community service for aiming laser beams at vehicles and officers at a Hong Kong police station on January 1 2020. The incident did not appear to be connected to protests against police which occurred in Hong Kong during 2019.

Kwok Fu-wah was said to have aimed the lasers "out of impulse". The incident interfered with police duties but there were no injuries reported.

He was originally charged with possessing offensive weapons in a public place which is punishable by imprisonment. However, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to "a diminished charge of similar nature" resulting in the lesser sentence of community service. The principal magistrate noted Kwok had a good background and was sorry for his actions.

His two laser pointers were examined by police, who said the "two devices could cause ocular damage if the eyes were directly exposed to the laser beam within 60 meters [200 feet]."

From the South China Morning Post


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

The 60 meter "ocular damage" distance probably refers to the laser's Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance. For a handheld laser with a typical beam of 1 milliradian beam spread, this corresponds to a laser of roughly 70 milliwatts. (The laser color would not be a factor in injury, only the power and divergence.)

In many countries the legal limit for a laser pointer is 1 mW; in the U.S. pointers of up to 5 mW are allowed to be sold.

A NOHD of 60 meters does not mean that injury will occur at that distance. As explained elsewhere, there is a safety or reduction factor built into the NOHD. At around 20 meters (66 feet), a 70 mW 1 mrad beam with a nominal 1/4 second exposure could cause the smallest detectable change in the retina about half the time, under laboratory conditions. Beyond 20 meters the chance of injury becomes even less until at the 60 meter NOHD it is considered an allowable exposure.

A one-quarter second exposure is used in the laser safety field for cases of accidental or unwanted beams. A person will blink, move or otherwise avoid eye exposure the laser light within that time.

The distance from Kwok to the police officers was not stated in the article.

US: LAPD officer has eye injury from laser

The following is from a news release dated July 19 2020, issued by the Los Angeles Police Department:

Suspect Arrested After Pointing Laser Pointer At Officer

On July 16th, 2020, around 8:40 a.m., a LAPD police officer in full uniform was in the area of 2nd St. and San Pedro when he felt a burning sensation in his eye. The officer believed the burning sensation may have been caused by a laser pointer. He was able to locate the suspect, 45-year-old Douglas Meyer, on a balcony in a nearby building. Additional officers went to the building and took Meyer into custody. Meyer was booked for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Police Officer, booking #5973501.

The officer began to experience nausea, vomiting, an intense headache, and blurred vision. He has received initial medical treatment, but will require follow up treatment with a specialist due to the seriousness of the sustained injury and symptoms.



UPDATE November 11 2020: An officer with the Los Angeles Police Department said he lost vision in his right eye, suffers migraines and has had trouble balancing for at least two months after having a green laser beam aimed at his eye on July 16 2020.

Officer Kyle Rice was on a call in the Little Tokyo area of downtown Los Angeles when someone unrelated to the call aimed a laser from a fourth-floor balcony of an apartment building. He told NBC Los Angeles he felt his right eye was on fire.

A 45-year-old suspect was arrested and later released from jail. As of September 10 2020, no charges were filed as the L.A. District Attorney's office said it did not have evidence in the case.

Due to his symptoms, Rice cannot drive. He is seeing eye specialists and neurologists, and does not yet know if the injury is permanent.

On September 4 2020 the LAPD police chief sent a memo to officers telling them to "adjust their vision away from the laser", and that laser eye protection would be provided. The memo noted "The use of a laser itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer's use of deadly force" (emphasis in the original). The memo added that "If confronted with a laser, personnel shall utilize concepts found in Use of Force, Tactics Directive 16, Tactical De-escalation Techniques."

UPDATE May 25 2021: Officer Kyle Rice's vision issues and other effects are likely not directly caused by the July 16 2020 laser illumination, according to a laser eye safety expert who contacted LaserPointerSafety.com. The correspondent said the symptoms were similar to other sufferers that the expert has examined in the past. These sufferers had symptoms after exposure to relatively low-powered laser beams — but no actual laser eye injury was found. The expert believes Rice's symptoms are "psychogenic, [meaning they are] real to the person, but not from the laser." It is not known whether Rice has seen eye specialists or other vision experts who have had direct experience with a variety of actual and claimed laser eye injuries. LaserPointerSafety.com welcomes any additional updates on this case.

From NBC Los Angeles

Hong Kong: Conviction upheld based on laser pointer being an offensive weapon

On May 20 2020, a Hong Kong judge upheld the conviction of a 16-year-old boy for possessing a laser pointer during September 2019 protests. Under Hong Kong law, laser pointers can be classified as offensive weapons.

In November 2019 the unnamed teenager was the first protester to be found guilty of carrying a laser pointer as an offensive weapon. He was sentenced to a rehabilitation center for three months.

During his May 2020 appeal, defense counsel said the laser pointer could have been used peacefully to point at buildings and draw attention. Counsel further said there was no evidence the teen had used the pointer, and that he had been cooperative with police.

However, the appeals judge agreed with prosecutors at the November 2019 trial. They said the teen was wearing protest gear including a helmet and he must have intended to use it to inflict harm or discomfort upon others. The judge also noted the teen did not present evidence or testify to contradict the prosecutors' claims.

The judge also said that using laser pointers on buildings for peaceful protest was "a fanciful notion".

A government expert testified that the laser device could cause harm if it were pointed at the human eye within a distance of 36 meters (118 feet).

From the South China Morning Post


COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

The 36 meter "ocular damage" distance probably refers to the laser's Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance. For a handheld laser with a typical beam of 1 milliradian beam spread, this corresponds to a laser of roughly 25 milliwatts. (The laser color would not be a factor in injury, only the power and divergence.)

In many countries the legal limit for a laser pointer is 1 mW; in the U.S. pointers of up to 5 mW are allowed to be sold.

A NOHD of 36 meters does not mean that injury will occur at that distance. As explained elsewhere, there is a safety or reduction factor built into the NOHD. At around 12 meters (39 feet), a 25 mW 1 mrad beam with a nominal 1/4 second exposure could cause the smallest detectable change in the retina about half the time, under laboratory conditions. Beyond 12 meters the chance of injury becomes even less until at the 36 meter NOHD it is considered an allowable exposure.

A one-quarter second exposure is used in the laser safety field for cases of accidental or unwanted beams. A person will blink, move or otherwise avoid eye exposure the laser light within that time.

US: Man uses laser to cause other drivers to get out of his way; is arrested

A man driving on Highway 101 near Sausalito, California on March 10 2020 used a "high-power" green laser to aim at other vehicles so he could pass them.

The man lased a California Highway Patrol car, lighting up the interior and temporarily blinding both officers in the car. One was able to provide a description of the laser-targeting vehicle to a CHP unit further ahead. The car was stopped and the driver was questioned. CHP said "He was in fact the person responsible for the laser strike and [was placed] under arrest. A search of the vehicle located a high-power green laser pen which had been used.

From KPIX CBS

Ireland: €80,000 award to man injured by laser pen in school

Twenty-four year-old Dillon Breen of Dublin was awarded €80,000 (USD $90,400) on March 6 2020, for losing 10 percent of his right eye's vision in a laser pen incident that took place when Breen was approximately 16. The award was against Syncron Limited of Ballycoolin, Dublin, the company that sold the €10 laser pen on the internet.

It was sold to a classmate of Breen who brought it to St Kevin's College on May 25 2012. Another classmate accidentally aimed the laser's green beam at Breen while a teacher was out of the classroom. Breen immediately felt a "burning sensation." At hospital he was told his retina was burned. Breen has a permanent spot in the center of his right eye, removing about 10 percent of his vision and requiring him to wear glasses.

Breen sued the school, St Kevin's and the laser pen distributor, Syncron.

Justice Michael Hanna found that the school had no responsibility. He said the teacher was entitled to be out of the classroom on necessary business, and if the school was aware of the laser it would have taken action.

Breen's suit said the laser pen was more powerful than allowed by EU directives and thus was dangerous. The judge agreed, noting it should not have been offered for sale, and that Syncron was entirely responsible for Breen's injury. Syncron did not appear in court and did not defend itself.

It is not known if Breen will be able to collect the judgement from Syncron as they are no longer trading.

From Herald.ie and the Irish Times (March 4 2020 article about the lawsuit, March 5 2020 article about the judge's decision and award)

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the first case we are aware of where a civil suit has been brought against a laser pointer distributor or manufacturer for an eye injury. There have been cases where government agencies have taken administrative or criminal action against illegal imports.

Canada: Driver films laser coming from oncoming car

A driver in Regina, Saskatchewan provided video of a laser being aimed at him from an oncoming car in an incident that occurred October 17 2019.

Ben Leech told the Regina Leader Post that the light "was super bright, but it only was pointing at my face for around a second, so it didn’t do too much damage or anything. It was just kind of a shock to see it." The exposure left white spot afterimages for a few seconds. There was no permanent damage.





Four frames in quick succession from a dashcam video showing the laser beam on the pavement, hood, windshield, and in the air. The video is at YouTube.


Leech could not identify the car so he did not report it to the Regina Police Service. An RPS spokesperson said they were not previously aware of automobile drivers being targeted by lasers, although it has happened to aircraft in the area.

From the Regina Leader Post, February 15 2020

US: Pointing gunsight laser at man a factor in fatal "stand your ground" shooting

On March 20, 2016, an angry, frightened man aimed a laser aiming device on a handgun at an unarmed man who had knocked on the wrong door. When the laser beam went on the unarmed man's face, he became angry, sprayed water on the gunman, made threats and charged. The gunman fired, killing the unarmed man.

Both men lived in a Fort Myers (Florida) apartment complex, in units identically numbered "102". Ryan Modell, 32, had been heavily drinking on March 19 to celebrate a new job. At about 2:30 am on March 20, Modell — wearing only shorts— knocked on the door of 46-year-old Steve Taylor, in a different unit 102.

Taylor got his 10 mm Glock handgun and answered the door. He told Modell he had the wrong unit, but to Taylor, the intoxicated Modell didn't respond and appeared drugged. Taylor said he pointed the gun at Modell, warning him not to approach, but Modell charged.

Taylor closed the door, injuring Modell's toe. Taylor's wife called police. Taylor went outside and found Modell hosing off his bloody toe. Taylor aimed the gun at Modell and turned on the laser pointer aiming device. That is when Modell sprayed water, made threats and charged.

Mark O'Mara, a lawyer for Modell's father, said Modell had an understandable reaction for a person who thought he was about to be shot. He said "If you put a laser on my chest, there is one of two things I am going to do: duck and run, or kill you."

Taylor says he fired when Modell was within two feet; O'Mara says evidence indicates it was several feet back.

The 2016 case became controversial due to Florida's "stand your ground" law being used. In January 2020, O'Mara asked Florida's governor to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the shooting, and wants Taylor charged with second-degree murder.

From WEARTV.com

US: Teen aiming gunsight laser pointer at friend pulls trigger, kills him

A 15-year-old boy shot and killed a friend as they were playing video games on January 26 2020 in Pataskala, Ohio.

Noah Bigham aimed a 9mm handgun which had a built-in laser pointer sight at his lifelong friend Hunter Cooper's eyes, to distract him during a game. Bigham pulled the trigger, firing the gun and killing his 15-year-old Cooper.

He was arrested and was charged as a juvenile with reckless homicide, a third-degree felony if committed by an adult.

Bigham's attorney called the killing "unintentional": "“The home, unfortunately, had complete access to handguns. It is my understanding the juveniles were able to have about unfettered access to firearms. This is what happens when you have firearms accessible. It’s just awful."

A police detective declined to say whether it was an accident: “We definitely can’t acknowledge an accidental shooting. We’re treating it as any shooting would be, at this point. In any investigation like this, you can’t rule anything out.”

From the Columbus Dispatch

Lebanon: Protesters use laser pointers against police

The photo below shows protesters in Beirut on January 22 2020 using laser pointers against special forces police.



They have been protesting the Lebanese government's limit on cash withdrawals from banks and ATMs, with the country on the brink of economic collapse. Riots have broken out where banks and ATMs are attacked.

There was no additional information regarding laser use or misuse during the protests — just the photo.

From the Daily Mail

South Africa: Laser beam aimed at Sea Rescue vessels

South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute said that for the first time, laser beams were aimed at NSRI sea vessels engaged in a search, which "completely disrupted" the search. Previously, helicopters were the laser targets.

From News24

US: Man kills neighbor with laser pointer, thinking it is a gun, after ongoing laser harassment

An Arkansas man was charged with first-degree murder of a neighbor who allegedly harassed him with laser lights. 56-year-old Dale Wayne Bryant killed the neighbor during an altercation as the victim picked up a laser pointer that Bryant thought was a gun. Bryant fired in self-defense.

Bryant lived in Combs, Arkansas, next to a group of people who would shine red, blue and green laser light into his windows at night, and into his face as he tried to sleep in a recliner in his living room. Bryant reported the laser harassment to police for a few months prior to the August 8 2018 shooting. He also reported loud music, loose dogs, and the possibility his neighbors were making methamphetamine.

During an altercation on August 8 2018, one of the alleged harassers, 30-year-old Samuel Scott Hicks threatened to shoot Bryant, according to Bryant's lawyer. Hicks bend down to pick up something off the ground. Bryant saw something in Hicks' hand and thought it was a shotgun, but Hicks apparently picked up a silver-colored laser pointer, which was later found at the scene. Bryant thought it was a gun and shot Hicks, killing him.

At trial in September 2019, a prosecutor disputed Bryant's account of laser harassment. He said Hicks had a new laser pointer that he was playing with, but he did not point it at Bryant's house.

On September 13 2019, after two hours of deliberation a jury decided Bryant shot in self-defense and found him not guilty.

Bryant's troubles were not over as Hicks' estate filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit on September 3 2019. It is not known if the suit was dropped after Bryant's acquittal.

From Arkansas Online (articles on the civil suit, the start of the trial, and after the jury acquitted) and 40/29 News

US: Man using laser on gun to threaten, rob victims

An robber has used a Glock-type pistol with a red laser aiming device to rob residents in two Georgia counties.

On three occasions between August 11 and September 2 2019, a man wearing a ski mask aimed the red laser at victims. On one occasion, he shot twice into the air and shouted "You think this is a game? I'm a real killer out here, I'll do this."

Police are looking for the suspect.

From 11 Alive

Hong Kong, China: UPDATED - Widespread use of laser pointers during protests

Handheld lasers are being used by protesters in Hong Kong against police officers, police buildings, and surveillance cameras.

Protests against increased Chinese control of Hong Kong began in March and April 2019. On June 21, lasers were aimed at police officers' eyes.

The use of lasers increased dramatically after the August 6 2019, arrest of 20-year-old Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong for having 10 laser pointers. (According to the South China Morning Post, laser pointers are readily available for less than HK $100 [USD $13].) Fong claimed he purchased them for stargazing. Persons around him chanted "release him" but police arrested him for "possession of offensive weapons.”

Police said that laser pointers are not prohibited in Hong Kong, but if they are used in an attack or are intended for use in an attack, then they are considered offensive weapons. During an August 7 2019 press conference, Li Kwai-wah, Superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said “…many of our colleagues have been injured by these items. And sensors in some of our video cameras were damaged. So we strongly believe that these items, which are capable of hurting people and destroying things, are indeed ‘offensive weapons.’” Police then demonstrated how the blue beam from a pointer taken from Fong could cause black ink on a newspaper to begin smoking at a range of about 20 inches.

Fong’s arrest set off demonstrations and a rally to demand his release. Critics of the police arrest said Fong’s laser pointers were legal unless they were actually being used to attack. The protests were marked by widespread use of laser pointers. At one point, a protester held up a newspaper and dozens of lasers were shined on it, without affecting the paper. (This was to show how laser beams as used in demonstrations — at distances much longer than 20 inches and handheld onto uncooperative targets — would not have the same effect as holding a beam steady on an unmoving target at close range.)


Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0


Protesters also aimed their laser pointers at the dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum, creating a "laser show" that may have been a takeoff on the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show around Hong Kong's harbor.


Protesters at the Hong Kong Science Museum. Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0


Hong Kong
Symphony of Lights laser show, presented nightly at 8 pm by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.


According to Wikipedia, during the laser pointer protest "some chanted slogans like 'laser pointer revolution' and joked 'Is the building on fire yet?' They hoped to show support to Fong and voice condemnation of his arrest by police, and to show that laser pointers are neither offensive weapons nor effective enough to cause a fire." A writer tweeted that the mood was festive: "This is the joyous, comedic side of [the protests] I’ve been missing amid the miasma of tear gas. Tonight was something we all needed: no tears, no blood, just laughter, song, and dance.”

Fong was released on August 8 2019, after being detained for two days.

Use of laser pointers continued in subsequent protests. For example, on August 10 a female flight attendant, Kwok Lai-fan, 28, was arrested for assaulting a police officer using a laser pointer.

On August 13, during demonstrations that closed Hong Kong airport, a person was beaten by protesters. According to Global Times, "the rioters began assaulting him by cuffing his hands behind his back, splashing water on his head and pointing laser beams into his face. He was denied medical help for hours until being rescued at around 10:40pm by Hong Kong police."

On August 14, lasers were aimed at a police station in the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. Police responded by firing tear gas to disperse the group.

On November 7, a 16-year-old boy was the first person convicted of possessing a laser pointer at the protests. During the trial, an expert testified that a laser pointer could injure eyes depending on the distance to the victim and the length of time the laser was in the victim's eyes. The judge said the boy's use of the pointer "was meant to harm the eyes of police officers, causing them discomfort." He ruled the pointer was not inherently an offensive weapon, but could become one depending on the circumstances and intent. On or around November 26, the unnamed teen was sentenced to attend a rehabilitation center where he will serve a short custodial sentence and receive work training and counseling.


For more photos and information, see the page "Laser use during protests"

From Vice News (Aug. 8 2019 story about "All-Night Laser Party"), South China Morning Post (Aug. 7 story, "Hongkongers rally to demand release of student arrested over possession of laser pens"; Aug. 8 story, "Laser pointer as 'weapon', explained"; Aug. 12 story, Flight attendant, audio technician and security guard among those arrested during another weekend of Hong Kong protests; Nov. 7 story "Boy, 16, is first to be convicted of possessing laser pointer at Hong Kong protests"), CBC News (Aug. 11 story, "Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers to deter police, scramble facial recognition"), Infosurhoy (Aug. 13 story, "Hong Kong protesters gather for 'laser show' rally"), Washington Post (Aug. 14 story, "After airport mayhem, Hong Kong protesters face tipping point in battle for hearts and minds"), Global Times (Aug. 14 story, "Netizens furious over rioters' assault of mainland passenger at HK airport"), Wikipedia article on "2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests" accessed August 14 2019, Hong Kong Free Press (Nov. 26 story, "Hong Kong court sends 16-year-old to rehab for carrying laser pointer, hiking pole and modified umbrella at demo")

UPDATES

On May 20 2020, the 16-year-old boy mentioned above (Nov. 7 2019) lost his appeal. The judge concluded the lower court was correct to characterize his carrying a laser pointer as an "offensive weapon" under Hong Kong law.

On July 23 2020, a man was
sentenced to 100 hours of community service for aiming laser beams at a police station near his house. The beams were not related to the protests; we are reporting it here since he was originally charged with violating a Hong Kong law stating that lasers are offensive weapons.

On July 24 2020, a man was
acquitted of a charge of possessing offensive weapons including a baton and a laser pointer.

US: Student suspended 10 days, faced possible expulsion for laser pointer use in school

Quinn Mulcahy, a 6th-grade student playing with a laser pointer in a school hallway on May 25 2019, was suspended for two weeks and faced possible expulsion, despite his possession and use apparently being legal.

The Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ “Code of Student Conduct” prohibits weapons in school. It specifically addresses pointers: “When a laser pen is used to threaten, intimidate or injure, it is considered a weapon.”

The boy’s father, Paul Mulcahy, told LaserPointerSafety.com that his son only aimed a legal, low-powered laser pointer at lockers and the wall in Landstown Middle School. He said it was never used in an aggressive or potentially harmful manner. Mulcahy's account was not disputed by the school.

Mulcahy wrote “no kid should be suspended or expelled for having a cat toy at school…. A ‘spork’ from the cafeteria if used to threaten, intimidate or injure would be a more likely weapon than a 2 mW laser pointer.”

During an initial meeting on May 30, principal John Parkman told Mulcahy he was instructed to use a “Discipline Guidelines” document not available to parents, students or the public. The principal did email the father a page from the Discipline Guidelines about laser pointers which seemed to restate the Code of Conduct language. (The VBCPS Office of Student Leadership confirmed on June 11 that the Discipline Guidelines are "administration-only.")

At a second meeting on June 2, the principal said the VBCPS Office of Student Leadership decided the infraction was “Inappropriate Property” and there would be no further punishment or action beyond the two-week suspension that had already occurred.

The Code of Student Conduct defines inappropriate property as follows: “The unauthorized possession of use of any type of personal property, which disrupts the educational process, is prohibited. Specifically prohibited are electronic devices when they are not authorized or being used for academic purposes (including cell phones), lighters and other items deemed inappropriate….”

In the Discipline Guidelines, the recommended penalty for Inappropriate Property depends on the property. One option is a verbal warning or reprimand called “Level 1.” The penalty for the boy turned out to be Level 6, suspension 6-10 days. As stated above, Mulcahy had been told that expulsion was also possible. Expulsion is "Level 8," the highest punishment level.

On June 9, the school returned the laser pointer to Mulcahy.

Mulcahy says he has retained a lawyer and may take action against the principal and/or school board.
Click to read more...

US: Police cars in Vienna, Va. hit multiple times by laser pointer

A report from the Vienna, Virginia police department describes multiple laser illuminations:

On May 2 2019, around 8:40 pm, "an officer was driving northbound on Nutley Street when his vehicle was struck multiple times with a green laser pointer. A Fairfax County Police Officer also advised his vehicles had been struck by the laser pointer that night. A similar incident happened to another officer a few weeks before this incident."

From Tysons Reporter

Australia: NSW woman convicted of using a laser pointer in public, plus one other charge

A woman in Dubbo, New South Wales, was convicted May 6 2019 of using a laser pointer in a public place, as well as impersonating a police officer.

On January 14 2019, Danielle Therese Emery, 49, was aiming a blue laser pointer into the sky. When police investigated, they found a car with a light bar with red and blue LED lights. Emery said she used the bar only to scare friends.

Emery sent the court a "heartfelt letter of admission and regret," and the court accepted that she was "probably not aware of the seriousness of the conduct in question."

Emery was sentenced with a community corrections order of 12 months. The standard conditions for such an order are "the offender must not commit any offence and must appear before the court if called upon during the term of the order." Additional conditions may be applied but were not mentioned in the news story about Emery.

From the Daily Liberal

Switzerland: Trams canceled after series of laser attacks on drivers

A tram line operating between Basil, Switzerland and St-Louis, France has shut down night operations, after numerous attacks from the France side with stones and laser pointers.

There is no apparent reason for the attacks. Laser pointers were used "on many occasions". Security guards were on call in France, but were unable to stop the attacks.

Drivers refused to go to St-Louis because of the attacks. The shutdown came on May 2 2019 after a female tram driver was illuminated with a laser pointer, and went for medical treatment.

From The Local and (in German) Basler Zeitung

Canada: Laser pointer harassment ends with machete, bat assault

On August 3 2018, two cars full of young adults were allegedly shining a laser beam into a homeless camp known as Discontent City, in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo. Two residents of the tent city tried to stop the cars from leaving, made verbal threats, and attacked the vehicles with machetes and a baseball bat.

The men were arrested in September 2018 and were arraigned April 16 2019. Both were charged with assault with a weapon, and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose. One of the men was also charged with a breach of undertaking or recognizance. Trial was set for June 5 2019.

No charges were levied against those involved with the laser pointer harassment.

From the Nanaimo News Bulletin (arraignment story and original story)

India: "Laser" aimed at Rahul Gandhi is from lens flare

Video taken in early April 2019 of Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi being interviewed outdoors in a crowd of media shows a green dot occasionally appearing on his head.

Congress leaders said the dot was from a laser, possibly mounted on a sniper gun. In a letter sent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, they wrote "…A (green) laser was pointed at [Gandhi's] head, intermittently on at least seven separate occasions in a short period; including twice at his temple on the right side of the head…. A perusal of the video by various persons including former security personnel leads to a prima facie conclusion that this laser could emanate from a potential weapon such as a sniper gun."

The Ministry of Home Affairs countered that the light came from a cameraman's mobile phone. A MHA spokesperson said "The green light shown in the clipping was found to be that of a mobile phone used by the AICC [All India Congress Committee] photographer, who was videographing the impromptu press interaction of Shri Rahul Gandhi near the collectorate at Amethi. Director (SPG [Special Protection Group]) has also informed MHA that this position was conveyed to the personal staff of Shri Rahul Gandhi."


Still frame from 15 seconds into the interview video clip, with a green dot on Rahul Gandhi's head circled. The entire YouTube video can be seen
here.


Congress Party leaders were especially concerned about security since Rahul Gandhi's grandmother and father, both former prime ministers of India, were both assassinated.

From Business Today and The Hindu

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM:

We are not aware of any mobile phones that come with green laser pointers. There is a iPhone accessory called iPin that fits into the audio jack, but this emits a low-power red beam.

The green dot only appears when there is a bright sun reflection in the camera lens. In the still frame above, a microphone logo cover is reflecting into the lens, at exactly the time the green dot appears. Here is another still frame with the same effect, from about 1:34 into the video clip. Once again, the dot corresponds with a bright reflection from the microphone logo cover.



The green dot, therefore seems to be caused by lens flare — internal reflections inside the camera lens. The camera sensor sees the lens flare dot, but there would be no dot "outside" in the real world or on Rahul Gandhi.

This may be what the MHA meant by "the light … was found to be that of a mobile phone," e.g. that the dot was internal to the phone's lens.

This is the second video we have seen from India where it was claimed lasers were being used, but the explanation turned out to be lens flare. The first case involved alleged laser harassment of an elephant.

UK: 68 attacks on West Yorkshire firefighters in 9 months; 2 of these involved lasers

Between April and December 2018, there were 68 attacks on West Yorkshire firefighters, according to a February 2019 report by the West Yorkshire Fire Authority.

In some cases, rocks or other objects were thrown at the firefighters or their equipment. In other cases, firefighters were verbally abused.

In two of the 68 cases, lasers were involved:

  • On 30 September 2018, at 1837 hours whilst attending a fire in the open at Lonsdale Street, Bradford a group of youths threw fireworks onto the fire, verbally abused the crews and shone laser pens into their eyes.
  • On 27th May 2018 at 2310 hours a laser pen was pointed at crews whilst they responded to an incident on The Crescent, Ravensthorpe. The occupier also became abusive and admitted causing the fire.

The complete list of 68 attacks was published in the Telegraph and Argus on February 16 2019.

US: Laser aimed from Mexico, across border, at Texas police officers

Two police officers from Roma, Texas (a small city along the Rio Grande river, and a port of entry from Mexico) had lasers aimed at their eyes while on patrol in February 2019. One officer had medical attention and treatment and then returned to duty.

An assistant chief of police, Francisco Garcia, said other officers from other agencies had also had lasers aimed at them in the past 30-45 days. He said it never happened before with direct hits in the eyes that caused damage.

Garcia said "This is just one of the many tactics the cartel and the criminal organizations will use to distract officers and get us away from a certain area to start illegally crossing contraband, drugs, people, everything, they cross."

He also noted concerns over whether the laser was stand-alone such as a pointer, or whether it is mounted on a weapon.

From ValleyCentral.com and KRGV.com

New Zealand: Man aimed laser into two police officers' eyes

A New Zealand man aimed a laser pointer at police officers who were conducting a bail check on June 3 2018. When the officers arrived, Niki John Gamble-Mackesy, 23, deliberately aimed a green "high-powered" laser pointer [likely over the 1 milliwatt New Zealand limit] directly into the officers' eyes.

They felt "immediate discomfort and a burning sensation in their eyes" according to the police report. One of the officers had pain and headaches for the next two days, and was seen by an optometrist. There was no permanent injury to either officer.

Gamble-Mackesy was sentenced in Hamilton District Court on January 30 2019 to four years, three months in jail, and was also ordered not to drive for two years. Charges against him included injuring with intent to injure, threatening to kill, obstructing the course of justice, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police, and two charges of committing an act of criminal nuisance. It was not clear how much of his jail term, and how many of the charges, directly related to his laser attack on the police officers, and how many related to additional criminal actions he had taken such as strangling his domestic partner on May 26 2018, and attacking her again on June 8.

From Stuff.co.nz

UPDATED January 20 2020: The judge's sentencing instructions listed the number of months of imprisonment for various charges:

1) Attempting to pervert the course of justice, 51 months (4 years, 3 months)
2) Disqualified driving, nine months
3) Dangerous driving, two months
4) Failing to stop, six months
5) Injuring with intent to injure, nine months
6) Criminal nuisance (shining a laser at police officers), nine months
7) Threatening to kill, nine months
8) Willfully attempting to pervert the course of justice (separate from #1), nine months.

The prison terms were to be served concurrently, not consecutively, for a total of 51 months of imprisonment.

The above helps show how the judge weighed the relative seriousness of the laser charge, compared with the other charges.

Thank you to Yung Chun-fai for providing the text of the sentencing report.