Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Columbus, Ohio: Man accused of shining laser at police helicopter facing prison time

Columbus Police Lieutenant Jack Harris has served the city of Columbus for 31 years but says his passion is hunting bad guys from the air.

"I think we're all kind of adrenaline junkies anyway," said Lt Harris, who heads up the Columbus Police Helicopter Unit.

Franklin County prosecutors say late in the evening of July 18 and into the early morning hours of July 19, the hunter became the hunted.

Over a span of more than four hours, police say someone pointed a bright green laser light into the cockpit of three-separate police helicopters.

Lt. Harris said the pinpoint precision of a laser light is transformed into a floodlight when it's pointed at an object 900-feet in the air.

"The cockpit filling with light, and just a temporary blindness," described Lt. Harris.

He said that temporary blindness is dangerous because pilots rely on their flight instruments, especially at night. Police said the suspect also targeted a Southwest Airlines fight making its descent into Columbus.

The pilot was temporarily blinded and forced to divert the aircraft. Franklin County prosecutor, Ron O'Brien, said he can't imagine what was going through the minds of the 61-passengers on board.

"You have to wonder what's going through the passenger's mind as the plane is descending for landing, and all of a sudden it's diverting and making some unusual moves. Everybody who was on that aircraft...their heart had to jump," said O'Brien.

Columbus police tracked the laser light to Regina Avenue and Hodges Drive. 10TV was there as police took 37-year-old Eugene Robinson into custody.

A grand jury indicted Robinson on four counts of Interfering with the Operation of an Aircraft with a Laser. He faces a maximum punishment of 32 years behind bars for what prosecutors call a "purposeless and dangerous act."

"...for no apparent reason other than ignorance and stupidity," said Robinson.

Lt. Harris said the CPD Helicopter Unit is now testing out a new helmet that would protect pilot's eyes from damage caused by laser light. He said he hopes this case will discourage thrill seekers from targeting police pilots because the result could quickly turn catastrophic.

"If we do lose control, it's going to obviously affect the crew and everybody on the ground," said Lt. Harris.

Robinson is scheduled to face a judge next week to answer to the charges.

Since 2016, the CPD Helicopter Unit is credited with more than 400 felony arrests.

Story and video ➤ https://www.10tv.com

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