Suspects Thought It Would Be Funny
Police in Albuquerque,
NM apprehended two men last week on charges of pointing a
high-intensity laser at a department helicopter... the latest in a
series of similar incidents nationwide, and the second time
in three years a police helicopter has been targeted over
the Southwestern city.
According to KRQE-13, two men pointed the construction-grade
laser pointer at the cockpit of the Albuquerque Police Department's
helicopter, Air One, as it was landing to investigate suspicious
activity on the night of February 18.
Officer Tim Booth said he and a fellow pilot were surprised to
see the blinding flash in the aircraft's cockpit. "We were struck
with a high intensity laser," Booth said.
Booth maintains the helicopter could have crashed as a result --
but added both pilots knew how to handle the situation.
"Momentarily both pilots are completely blinded," he told the
television station. "As a result we aborted the landing, we divert
our attention to strictly to the instruments and we climb to a safe
The helicopter later touched down safely. When officers caught
the men, the suspects told police they didn't know the incident
could have hurt anyone -- and added they thought it might be
Police weren't as amused.
"It's very serious. Had we had an incident, had we had a mishap
here, two individuals could have died," Booth said. "I don't know
if the aircraft are just an attractive target but I think that
people fail to realize how serious it can be."
In addition to possible local charges, the men also face
the possibility of being prosecuted under the Patriot Act for
domestic terrorism. As ANN reported, such was the
case for a man in Medford, MA last December, after he shone a laser
light at a State Police helo.
At least 12 other incidents of lasers being shone into aircraft
cockpits have been reported in the past year. This latest
example also builds a case for law enforcement pilots earning
combat-duty pay when flying over the Duke City.
As ANN reported, a Bernalillo
County Sheriff's Helicopter made a hard landing in a yard on the
city's west side in August 2005, after coming under small arms fire
from the ground. The two pilots onboard, Chris Holland and Deputy
Ward Pfefferle, were injured when they were hit by shrapnel as the
bullet entered the plexiglass bubble canopy, struck an anti-torque
pedal, fragmented and bounced around the cockpit.
Police later arrested Jason Kerns, a 29-year old former USMC
marksmanship instructor and self-described "sniper," who had
initially told investigators he saw the helicopter go down.