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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mission police: Men arrested after blinding helicopter’s pilots with laser

     

    Two men have been arrested after allegedly shining a laser that temporarily blinded a helicopter’s pilots.

    The green beam illuminated the cockpit of a Department of Public Safety helicopter about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, interrupting a routine surveillance flight near the 3900 block of San Efrain St., police said. The pilot and copilot were wearing night-vision goggles.

    Once the two regained their vision, they identified the location from which the beam had come and hovered above the home.

    After the crew asked for assistance, Mission police located and arrested Luis Antonio Correa, 29, and Robert Joseph Sell, 43, Sgt. Jody Tittle said. The men were formally charged Wednesday morning.

    As the chopper neared the residence, the pilot and copilot saw two men and a woman sitting in the backyard of a home. One of the men, who wore a red-orange shirt, shined the laser at the chopper one more time, striking the pilot almost in the eye, police said. That man was later identified as Correa.

    As Correa was being arrested, Sell came out of the home and confessed it was him who was shining the laser at the helicopter, Tittle said. But because Correa was identified by the high-tech surveillance system aboard the DPS chopper, both men were arrested.

    DPS Aircraft Section Capt. Stacy Holland said lasers are especially dangerous for aircrew wearing night-vision goggles because they are designed to intensify light.

    “”It takes the little ambient light from the stars and the moon and amplifies it so much that it creates a horizon for you,”” he said about the goggles. “”Lasers are very intense anyway. Now you point it at a cockpit, and that light is brighter than you can imagine.””

    “”It could cause enough incapacitation to bring the aircraft down,”” Holland said.

    Furthermore, such a beam could permanently damage the eye, he said.

    Although state and federal law prohibit people from shining light at aircraft, DPS has documented several similar cases, Holland said. In 2009, a 19-year-old man was arrested after he shined a laser at another DPS chopper in San Juan, according to Monitor archives.

    Correa and Sell, who both had lawyers with them, were charged with illumination of aircraft by intense light — a Class A misdemeanor. Each was assessed a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. A personal recognizance bond allows someone accused of a crime — typically a minor offense — to be free while awaiting trial, without posting bail, based on the person’s promise to appear for future court hearings. If the accused then fails to appear as required, cash or some form of security must be paid and a new warrant is issued.

    If convicted, they could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

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