Potential Catastrophe Averted From Laser Discharged At Sheriff’s Helicopter
Lopez being arrested (SAPD)
SANTA ANA — Whether it be this week’s sun’s eclipse or lasers, blinding a pilot could be a given when an intense beam of light is pointed toward an aircraft cockpit. Notice of a green laser, 13 times more powerful than a conventional laser pointer and aimed at Santa Ana Sheriff’s Air Support “Duke” at 8:37 PM on 8/21/17, was relayed to SAPD dispatchers.
The suspect, Gustavo Valencia Lopez (38) of Santa Ana, who was down below in Thornton Park’s playground with his wife and two kids, was pinpointed by the helicopter cockpit’s surveillance. When located by officers on the ground, the suspect and family at first denied, but then admitted when officers unearthed the laser after the video showed it being buried it in the sand.
Sergeant Anthony Bertagna told Crime Voice, “People don’t realize that a pilot could be blinded, or lose control of the aircraft. It’s foolish to use lasers – the intensity can cause detrimental damage to vision. Every time we arrest someone for laser strike on an airship, let alone the potential for downing an aircraft – it could be catastrophic.”
Sgt. Bertagna continued, ” It could cause the pilot to lose control from vertigo, damage the observers, and cause injury or death. The aircraft can down anywhere. One of our pilots was hit with a laser two years ago and was off work for one month. Vision was affected. The judge gave the suspect ten years in Federal prison.”
“This happens a few times per year. We use an infrared camera system, therefore people don’t know they’re being recorded. Pointing a laser at an occupied aircraft is a felony. The District Attorney will determine what will be filed. Prosecution could be on a Federal or State level, due to the serious nature of this crime.”