A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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 While we do not publish all news reports of lasers aimed at aircraft, we try to publish all reports we see of lasers aimed at vehicles.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: 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: 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...

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.

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: 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...

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.

US: UPDATED - NFL quarterback targeted by laser pointer during game; fan eventually found and fined $500

National Football League quarterback Tom Brady was targeted by a green laser beam during a NFL playoff game on January 20 2019. The beam was not noticed at the time, but a reporter saw it in a video playback.



KMBC reporter William Joy highlighted the green laser beam, seen here on the center of Tom Brady's helmet. The laser appeared to be around 4 inches wide, and danced on the quarterback's upper body — it was not held steady. Video by Turner Twyman.

According to Joy, the beam was on Brady's eyes and helmet at least three times during the game: "…once right after the muffed Julian Edelman punt call was overturned when Patriots retook possession, once on a completion to Chris Hogan, and once on a deep ball to Rob Gronkowski."

The NFL's security department was looking into the incident. As of January 23 2019, Kansas City police have not received a complaint but say they will investigate if a complaint is filed.

From the Washington Post, Boston Globe, musketfire.com and many other news sources. Sports Illustrated has an especially detailed look at the safety and legal issues around laser pointer misuse at NFL games. Thanks to Doug McCullough for bringing this to our attention.

COMMENTARY BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM: Based on the brightness and size of the beam in the videos, it is highly unlikely that this had enough irradiance (power density) to cause harm to any person's eyes.

Light from a laser pointer can harm human eyes at close ranges; within a few yards or meters. But at the distances involved, from a person in the stands to a player on the field, light from a handheld laser pointer would spread out (as the video shows) and would not be steady enough to allow dangerous heat to build up in the eye. This goes for both visible green light, and any non-visible infrared light (some poorly-constructed green laser pointers also emit non-visible infrared light).

The worst effect would be glare or brief flashblindness, like when a camera flash goes off close to a person's face. Since Brady did not seem to notice, and others — national sportscasters and the two teams involved — also did not notice anything unusual at the time, the laser targeting did not seem to affect the outcome of the play or of the game.

LaserPointerSafety.com has more stories about lasers misused during sporting events.

UPDATED February 3 2019: ESPN reported that Kansas City Chiefs officials, using videotape and eyewitnesses, identified the person who aimed a laser at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The person has been banned for life from the Chiefs' stadium. The officials have asked the Kansas City district attorney to bring the strongest possible charges against the person, to act as a deterrent.

ESPN also reported that "…members of the military have reached out to Brady to inform him that the lasers shined near his face could cause irreversible eye damage."

From ESPN and many subsequent sources such as the Boston Herald and CBS Sports

UPDATED April 11 2019: Dwyan Morgan, 64, was identified as the man who aimed a laser at Tom Brady during the American Football Conference championship game on January 20 2019. He was cited with one count of disturbing the peace; the penalty is up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Morgan will appear in Jackson County Municipal Court on July 17.

According to Heavy.com, Morgan is an electrician from Lee's Summit, Missouri. The website also said that a younger male relative posted items on Facebook making light of the citation and Brady.


Dwyan Morgan


According to TMZ, "Sources connected to Morgan tell us ... his intention was never to hurt anyone, he was just trying to have fun and didn't expect things to blow up the way they did. We're also told Morgan was drinking before the laser incident...." TMZ also reported that "One source close to the Chiefs fan says he feels bad for embarrassing Chiefs Nation, but has no plans to apologize to the Patriots. In fact, we're told he still hates the Pats and Tom Brady ... passionately and will continue to root against them -- just not from Arrowhead [Stadium], because he's been banned."

From the
Boston Herald, Heavy.com, TMZ, and a press release from the Jackson County Prosecutor

UPDATED May 13 2019: Dwyan Morgan told Inside Edition he did not intend to injure Tom Brady. Morgan said he was intoxicated and wanted to distract the quarterback. He said "I shouldn't have done it" but also said he is not gong to apologize to Brady or the Patriots football team. From Inside Edition


Dwyan Morgan recreates his aiming a laser pointer at Tom Brady, for the TV show Inside Edition



Dwyan Morgan and his 23-year-old son Colton both appear to be amused by Dwyan getting a misdemeanor citation for "Disturbing the peace by shining a laser pointer in the direction of Tom Brady during a football game."


UPDATED July 18 2019: On July 17 2019 Dwyan Morgan pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. He was fined $500. He was not given any jail time. From TMZ Sports and the Associated Press via KSNT.com

US: Indianapolis teen injured by laser pointer five years ago shares story

In 2013, 12-year-old Ross Vanderpool and a friend were playing with a laser pointer when Vanderpool injured his eye. The incident happened in Indianapolis although the laser was obtained from Italy (and had no informational labeling).

Vanderpool told his story in June 2018, to try to warn others to be careful about laser pointers. He said “We watched Star Wars and they had laser guns so we really didn’t know how dangerous it was.”

While he still has unspecified damage, treatment helped to repair much of the damage.

According to a news story, “the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and the Indiana State Medical Association are working on a resolution to deal with the laser pointer issue. They hope to release their findings by the end of September [2018].”

From RTV6 The Indy Channel

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Star Wars depicts lasers as weapons — not as toys. People die or are severely injured by the laser blasters and laser-like lightsabers. It is not clear how someone who watches Star Wars would not understand that lasers are dangerous — at least, as used in Star Wars.

Greece: 9-year-old "repeatedly gazing" into laser causes hole in his eye

A 9-year-old boy in Greece suffered serious, permanent damage to his left eye, after “repeatedly gazing” into a green beam from a laser pointer. (Note: This is not unknown. As of June 21 2018, LaserPointerSafety.com has reported on around 15 other cases of self-inflicted eye injuries.)

The most serious injury that the boy caused was a large hole in his macula, shown with the yellow arrows.

Pic 2018-06-21 at 8.59.23 PM

Two other areas of injury were not immediately visible in a funduscopic exam of the retina (photo A, using ordinary white light) but were clearly visible using fundus autofluorescence imaging (blue arrows in photo B, using a narrow wavelength of light). The round area to the left in both photos is the optic disc, a natural feature where the optic nerve begins — it is not laser damage.

The macula is where central vision occurs. The fact that the injury occurred in the macula indicates that the boy looked directly into the laser light with his left eye. Damage to the macula is serious as this area provides high resolution, color vision in the center of the visual field.

The injury reduced the boy’s vision to 20/100 in the injured left eye; his right eye remained at 20/20. The boy’s ophthalmologists felt the hole was too large and too much time had passed since the injury for surgery. (The doctors suspected that the boy had injured his eye at least a year earlier.) Because surgery might make things worse, causing a cataract without improving the macula, they “favored conservative management.”

There was no improvement in vision even 1 1/2 years after the injury was first presented to the ophthalmologists.

The power of the laser pointer, and other details of the incident, were not described in the one-paragraph report published June 21 2018. One of the authors told CNN the boy’s father “had bought the laser as a toy from a street merchant.”

From the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2018; 378:2420, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1714488) Authors: Sofia Androudi, M.D., Ph.D., and Eleni Papageorgiou, M.D., Ph.D. Additional reporting by CNN. This story was picked up by many other news sites around the world.

Ukraine: Six soldiers said to be injured by Russian-backed laser weapons

The following material in blue is from the Kyiv Post, May 28 2018:

At least six Ukrainian servicemen deployed to the Donbas war zone have suffered serious eye damage from unidentified optical radiation devices used by Kremlin-backed militants on several occasions since 2016.

The military believes that the soldiers were likely targeted with blinding laser devices, which Russia brought to Donbas in order to test this new advanced technology in battlefield conditions. If independently confirmed, the usage of such weapons can be qualified as a war crime, according to international law.

Since the war’s outbreak in 2014, there have been at least three such incidents recorded by the State Border Service and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

On July 18, 2016, three Ukrainian border guards deployed to a forward checkpoint between the city of Maryinka just west of Russian-occupied Donetsk suffered severe eye injuries as they surveyed enemy territory in front of them through binoculars and monoculars.

Click to read more...

India: Laser pointers said to harass elephants

Amid a rash of captive elephants going wild in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala comes a claim that laser pointers have been used to provoke the pachyderms.

An April 12 2018 story says that although “[s]evere torture and unscientific handling” can cause problems, that laser pointers also may have been used recently by “a mysterious group with vested interests.”

According to the story, “There were complaints that light beams were shined continuously from a distance into the eyes of elephants paraded at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram and some other local temples in Thiruvalla and Pathanamthitta. It was alleged that the jumbos turned restive and violent after being blinded with the high-powered laser pointer.”

The story includes a 47-second video clip of an elephant refusing to get onto a truck, while a dot moves around on and near the elephant.

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

An analysis indicates that the moving dot is not from a laser, but is from lens flare — internal reflection in the camera lens of a bright light in the scene.

The screenshot below, from one second into the video, shows the dot circled in green, and a bright light circled in red.

elephant alleged laser Kerala India

As the video is played, the dot moves around. Its movements are correlated with the bright light. For example, when the elephant’s body blocks the light, the dot disappears. Because it is a reflection, it moves opposite to the light, and its movement also changes based on the tilt of the camera lens.

In addition, the dot appears yellow or white. This correlates with the light color. Yellow is very uncommon for laser pointers, while there are no “white” laser pointer beams. A green or red dot would indicate an actual laser.

While there may be other incidents of laser pointer misuse in Kerala, the moving dot in this particular video does not, in the view of LaserPointerSafety.com, show a laser dot or any actual (real-world) light on the elephant.

From Manorama Online

US: Officer in car said to have burned cornea from "inadvertent" laser pointer incident

A police officer in College Place, Washington was driving when he was illuminated by a laser pointer. Officer Bill Kelly had a burning sensation in his left eye and went to St. Mary’s Hospital. He was “released with a small burn of his cornea.”

The incident happened on November 26 2017. A College Place resident later confessed to using the laser pointer. The 43-year-old woman said she “inadvertently” aimed the laser at the officer. Police said the laser was “Class III.”

The unnamed woman may be charged with unlawful discharge of a laser at a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty, a Class C felony which has a punishment of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

College Place Wa laser pointer class III
The laser pointer

College Place WA laser pointer label
Close-up of the laser pointer label


From MyColumbiaBasin.com.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Visible light travels through the clear cornea — it is not absorbed by corneal tissue. It is essentially impossible for a handheld laser’s visible light to be able to cause corneal damage to a moving target many yards away. While certain green lasers can also emit infrared light, it is extremely unlikely that the IR was strong enough to cause damage under the specified conditions. When corneal damage is seen after an unwanted laser pointer exposure, this is due to the person rubbing their eyes too vigorously. More information on evaluating laser injuries is here.

US: Man fined $106 for possession and improper use of laser pointer

36-year-old Aubrey Elmore from Cave Springs, Arkansas “was fined $106 for possession and improper use of [a] laser pointer,” according to the Joplin, Missouri Municipal Court log.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: There is a Joplin city ordinance, dating from 1999, that makes it illegal to annoy, harass or injure a person or animal. It also is illegal for a person under 18 to possess a laser pointer. It is not known how it would be illegal for a 36-year-old to possess a laser pointer.

From the Joplin Globe

US: Multi-car crash due to laser being aimed at driver

A woman driving on Interstate 5 in Oregon was dazzled by a green laser beam aimed by the driver of another car. This led to a three-car crash causing body damage to the vehicles. There were no reported injuries due to the crash or the laser light.

The accident occurred at about 5:30 am on October 25 2016. Miranda Senters, 18, was driving her new car, bought one week prior, when the driver in front of her aimed a green laser beam over his shoulder towards her. Senters told KGW News “I just kept going back and forth a little bit, trying to keep out of the light.” The laser driver then went behind Senters’ car and aimed into the rear-view mirror: “…he’s shining it from the back of me into my eyes and I couldn’t see.”

Senters tried to get away but the other driver weaved in and out of lanes to keep up with her. While trying to avoid the light, Senters swerved to the shoulder and spun out. The other car crashed into her. A third driver hit a barrier when trying to avoid the stopped vehicles.

The laser car, an older Honda Civic, left the scene. In an Instagram post, state police asked the public to help them find the Civic.

laser car crash Oregon i-5 I5 Senter
State police photo showing Senters’ car with driver side damage, at the scene on Interstate 5.


Senters later told KPTV “He had a little laser and was trying to get it through my front window. I went blind because a green laser light — like my eyes still hurt from that, I can still see it…. I don’t understand how it’s a joke. It could have killed me.”

From KGW and KPTV. Thank you to George Palikaras for bringing this to our attention.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the first well-documented case we’re aware of where a laser pointer aimed at a driver directly caused a crash. There was a fatal crash in 1998 which was partially blamed on a laser pointer, and an indirect reference to a three-car accident in 1999. There have also been a number of near-accidents and other car-related laser incidents which are listed here.

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

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

Diagram of laser pointer on bus

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

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

The authors concluded with two “Learning points”:

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

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

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

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

US: Blue laser pointer said to injure ferry captain in Washington state

The captains of a Washington state ferry were each hit by blue laser light, aimed at them by a man in his twenties from a passing ferry. The October 22 2015 incident lasted about a minute, and resulted in eye injuries to one of the captains. Also, earlier that same evening, a motorcyclist on Whidbey Island had a blue laser aimed at him while going to the ferry terminal.

This map shows the ferries’ route. The map’s indicated positions of the ferries are from a later time and do NOT show their position during the laser incident.

Washington State ferries map

At about 8:30 pm, the ferry M/V Tokitae (shown below) was approaching the Clinton (Wash.) Ferry Terminal. The captains were at wheelhouses on opposite ends of the 362-foot-long ferry. The one piloting the vessel was hit first, and suffered injuries.

Washington State Ferry MV Tokitae 01

According to Washington State Ferries Port Captain Jay Mooney, the man had “third-degree burns on his eyelid and his vision is still not quite back at 100 percent.” (A first-degree burn occurs only on the surface of the skin. A third-degree burn “extends to all layers of the skin,” according to the Wikipedia “Burn” article.)

The blue laser beam came from the slightly smaller ferry M/V Kitsap, which was traveling in the opposite direction.

Washington State Ferry MV Kitsap 328ft

A Kitsap deckhand had seen two men with the laser, and reported it to a Washington State Patrol trooper after arrival at the terminal in Mukilteo. One man told the officer that “it was a new toy and he was shining it at the water and didn’t mean to shine it at the vessel,” according to a WSP spokesperson. The trooper confiscated the laser pointer, shown here:

Blue laser Washington state ferry

The spokesperson said “This is not a typical laser you’d see in a classroom or office setting.” She referenced the manufacturer’s packaging which says to use safety glasses, to not aim it at faces, and that it could light a match if held on target long enough.

A similar-looking laser sold by Lasers-Pointers.com is said to be 5000 mW (5 watts) and costs less than $200:

Lasers-Pointers dot com 5W blue laser

The two captains exposed to the laser light missed one day of work. The suspect who had the laser has not yet been charged, as of October 29 2015. Prosecutors are determining what charges would be appropriate.

UPDATED - November 9 2015: No arrests have yet been made and no charges have been filed, more than two weeks after a suspect was picked up. This is due in part to determining what jursidiction applied, since the laser incident took place on ferries in waters between different Washington state counties. Another difficulty was determining what charge to file. A KIRO radio story also noted the limitations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates lasers. While FDA attempts to block some high-powered lasers, imports can get through. And, “there aren't any penalties for buying or owning those illegally high-powered devices, nor are there requirements for training for non-medical, non-industrial devices.” From MyNorthwest.com

UPDATED - April 18 2015: 27-year-old Mark Raden was charged with assault in the third degree, for aiming at the ferry captains. In addition, he has a previous history of run-ins with law enforcement over laser misuse. Details are here.

An analysis of the laser’s power and capabilities is below (click on the “read more” link).

From KOMO News, Q13Fox, the Kitsap Sun and Wikipedia. Ferry drawings and route map from Washington State Department of Transportation website. Laser pointer info from Lasers-Pointers.com.

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US: UPDATED - Utah man with laser pointer taped to fake gun is shot by police

A 32-year-old Utah man who brandished a homemade fake gun with a fake laser pointer “sight”, was shot July 10 2014 by a police officer. The man, Timothy James Peterson, survived and was charged with second-degree felony assault against a police officer, and misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon and failure to stop at the command of law enforcement.

On July 7, Peterson made a Facebook post where he threatened to kill police, and referenced being shot by police. Three days later, West Jordan police officer Ian Adams was patrolling a shopping center and saw Peterson, who ran. During the chase, Peterson turned and drew an object that looked like a handgun. Adams shot Peterson twice, once in the legs and once in the buttocks.

The object was found to be a piece of bent metal with a taped-on laser pointer.
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US: 3-car accident in Springfield Missouri said to be caused by laser light

A case where laser light caused a vehicular accident is described in a February 23 1999 ordinance filed in Springfield, Missouri.

Ordinance 4880 has an attached “Explanation to Amended Council Bill No. 99-61” which gives some reasons for the city’s restrictions on laser use and possession. One of the “local abuses” cited is the following:

  • “Another offense includes a three-car collision, where a young man pointed a laser light into the car ahead of him and startled the driver, causing him to slam on his brakes and cause a pileup.”