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Man faces possible felony charges in laser strike

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A 22-year-old 4S Ranch man faces possible felony charges for allegedly endangering a law enforcement helicopter crew by shining a laser at the aircraft as it flew above his home late at night, a sheriff’s official reported today.

The two deputies were patrolling over the neighborhood near Rancho Bernardo when the intense light began flashing on and around the chopper about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Lt. Todd Richardson said.

Fortunately, the laser beam did not directly hit the windows of the helicopter, according to Richardson.  “This type of incident can fully incapacitate an aircraft flight crew, causing permanent injury to the pilots and loss of control of the aircraft,” he said.

The deputies notified the Poway Sheriff’s Station, which sent patrol cars to the location from which the laser had emanated.

The sheriff’s flight crew directed the ground units to a home in the 16000 block of Dove Canyon Road, where they contacted a man who matched the description of the person the airborne deputies had seen shining the light into the air.

Deputies questioned the man and forwarded their findings this morning to the District Attorney’s Office, which will likely file criminal charges in the case, Richardson said. The lieutenant declined to release the name of the suspect because he had not yet been arrested.

Shining lasers at aircraft is a highly hazardous act that has caused air crashes and ended the flying careers of pilots due to eye damage, according to Richardson. The crime has become increasingly common in recent years, he said.

“It’s an epidemic across the country. … I don’t think (perpetrators) appreciate the severity of how dangerous it is,” the lieutenant said. “It’s no different than if you shoot at us. It’s that serious.”

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