Wednesday, April 18, 2012

FBI arrests man accused of pointing laser at jet and helicopter

A North Hollywood man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging that he pointed a potentially dangerous laser beam at a private jet and a police helicopter, authorities said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adam Gardenhire, 18, is accused of shining a green laser beam at a Cessna Citation, operated by Netjets, and a Pasadena Police Department helicopter on the evening of March 29. He was taken into custody at his home.

Gardenhire, who faces two counts, is being prosecuted under a new federal law that makes it a criminal offense to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft. His case is the first time the statute has been used on the West Coast and the second time in the nation, authorities said.

Gardenhire faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted on both charges. He also is subject to civil penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Reports of laser attacks have increased significantly in recent years as the devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. California, which has consistently led the nation in reported incidents, had more than 3,500 attacks last year.

Laser beams can temporarily distract pilots and impair their vision, which is particularly dangerous during takeoffs and landings. Pilots have reported the need to abort landings or turn over control of aircraft to another pilot after being blinded.

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