FBI points out dangers of lasers aimed at aircraft
A Modesto man has been arrested on a felony charge after repeatedly hitting a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter with a laser pointer early Monday, a department sergeant said.
The helicopter was on routine patrol over the county “when it got multiple laser strikes from an apartment on the 3500 block of San Clemente,” just northeast of Prescott Road and Standiford Avenue, Sgt. Jesus Sigala said. The incident occurred about 1 a.m.
Crew members were able to pinpoint the origin of the laser and see the subject with it, the sergeant said. They directed Modesto Police Department officers to the subject, later identified as Jose Flores, 22.
Flores apparently had been pointing the laser at the aircraft from the driver’s side of a vehicle parked in a lot at 2523 San Clemente, MPD spokeswoman Sharon Bear said Monday. The laser pointer was found beneath his seat.
Flores was booked on a felony charge of discharging a laser at an aircraft, Bear said.
The crime is a felony because striking an aircraft with a laser can be so dangerous, Sigala said. An article on an FBI website says, “When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. Those who have been subject to such attacks have described them as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.”