A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: UPDATED - Myrtle Beach CAP official witholds safety flights after being charged for confiscating laser pointer from 12-year-old (+ 2 updates)

The commander of the Myrtle Beach Civil Air Patrol was arrested October 12 2011 for confiscating a laser pointer being misused by a 12-year-old boy. Stephen Teachout was riding his scooter when he saw the boy pointing a green laser at a passing motorcycle, moped and Teachout’s scooter. Teachout went into the boy’s yard, grabbed his arm, took the pointer, then drove away on his scooter. Teachout was charged with third-degree assault and petty larceny. The boy was also given a juvenile summons for public disorderly conduct.

Stephen Teachout laser
Stephen Teachout

In retaliation, Teachout said the three-pilot Civil Air Patrol would not provide help to Horry County (where Mytle Beach is located) for certain calls including offshore missing persons and forest fires. According to the Sun News, Teachout said “I support Horry County but if they don’t have [the pilots’] backs then no thanks. We don’t need to be here.”

The boy’s parents wanted charges pursued. Teachout said he took the laser the same way a person would take a baseball bat from an attacker. He also said “There can’t be two victims in a victimless crime.”

From the Sun News

UPDATE November 2 2011: Stephen Teachout was suspended by the South Carolina Civil Air Patrol. A SC CAP spokesperson said a suspension is normal when a CAP member violates regulations or is arrested. The national CAP headquarters is handling the investigation, and is waiting to see if it leads to a conviction. If terminated due to a conviction, Teachout has the right to ask CAP for a review. The Nov. 2 news story from Carolina Live also said that Teachout was charged with “Failure to Appear” in addition to the assault and petty larceny charges.

UPDATE #2, November 5 2011: In an interview, Teachout disputed circumstances of the arrest. He said he did not grab the 12-year-old’s arm or set foot on the family’s property when taking the laser. He said a 12-year-old would lie when in trouble. Separately, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Civil Air Patrol announced that the organization will still assist Horry County, despite what Stephen Teachout said after his October 12 arrest. CAP has a duty that cannot be overruled by local commanders, the spokesperson said. From the Sun News.

UPDATE #3, January 4 2011: Stephen Teachout was “relieved of duty” and is no longer a Civil Air Patrol member. He was suspended after the October incident. A spokesperson for the CAP office in Columbia, South Carolina, confirmed that Teachout was no longer on the CAP roster. Teachout said he has had no contact with CAP regarding his suspension. The January 4 Myrtle Beach Online news story did not say whether Teachout would fight his removal.