Laser lights endanger police aircraft over East Portland

If you shine a laser at an aircraft, you’ll likely be caught, and may go to jail …

It’s no joke: a laser pointer can blind pilots a considerable distance away. FAA image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Laser pointers – or higher-powered laser luminaires – can provide hours of fun for cats chasing and pouncing on the moving spot of light. But they can be dangerous. And misusing them can land you in jail.

Just before 10:00 p.m. on July 23, a 37-year-old man decided to “light up” a slow-moving small airplane flying over outer East Portland.

The “spotlighted” aircraft wasn’t owned by a private pilot, however. It was, instead, a Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Air Support Unit, providing patrol support over outer East Portland.

The laser beam coming from the Rosewood area immediately attracted the attention of police aircraft operators. FAA image

“Someone shined a laser pointer at the aircraft,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

“The officers immediately shared the information with Portland Air Traffic Control to alert other aircraft in the area,” Simpson said.

Because of their sophisticated optical system, the crew on the plane determined that the laser light strike came from the Rosewood area, near SE 162nd Avenue and Stark Street.
“Gresham Police Department officers responded to the suspected point of origin of the laser strike, where they located and arrested the suspect, also seizing a laser pointer as evidence,” Simpson said.

Charged with two crimes is 37-year-old David Martinez, after he lit up a police aircraft with a laser light. MCDC booking photo

Arrested was 37-year-old David Martinez who was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 3:17 a.m. on July 24 on charges of Unlawful Directing of Light from a Laser Pointer, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person.

After he appeared for arraignment in Multnomah County Court, Martinez learned that his charges carried a combined bail of $5,000. However, he was held in custody without bail, and placed in Inverness Jail, on a Parole Violation charge.

A child shining a laser light at the same police aircraft bring more brightly colored red and blue lights to a Montavilla house – those lights were on a police car.

Minutes after the first laser light strike, the police aircraft was hit by another laser beam, west of their location; this time near SE 84th Avenue and Stark Street.

“Officers determined that a 7-year-old child, playing with a laser pointer, was responsible for the strike,” Simpson said. “The officers contacted the child’s mother and explained the danger of pointing a laser at aircraft.”

Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety concern for pilots, and is a violation of law, Simpson pointed out.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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