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Helicopter crew in another laser arrest

Flashing an aircraft with a laser device called "an assault" by officer.

May 31, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

GLENDALE — A 31-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of flashing a laser three times at a police helicopter crew, officials said.

Erick Medina of Glendale was taken into custody in his Elk Avenue apartment in connection with discharging a laser at an aircraft, according to Glendale Police Department reports.

It was the second arrest connected to pointing a laser at a police helicopter in less than a week, prompting officials to re-issue warnings about the dangers the lights pose to pilots.

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“It’s not a game,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson of the Joint Air Support Unit. “It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”

The aircrew notified fellow officers that at about 10:45 p.m. they had been struck by a green laser while patrolling the skies over South Glendale. They noticed the light coming from a white apartment building on Elk Avenue.

As officers searched the building, the aircrew was hit again with the laser. But this time, they were able to pinpoint the laser to Medina’s apartment.

Medina told officers that he didn’t point a laser at the helicopter, but instead had been looking at stars through a telescope, according to reports.

A neighbor told police that he had seen Medina previously use a telescope, which was attached with a laser, to look outside his window, according to reports.

One of the intended uses for lasers is stargazing, Robertson said. But if the lasers are “in the wrong hands, it’s dangerous,” he said.

Burbank police arrested Rafael Torosyan, 30, on May 22 after he allegedly pointed a laser at a Glendale police helicopter crew as they were preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport.

Torosyan, a Burbank resident, allegedly flashed the laser at the Glendale air crew four times, police said.

The crew used thermal imaging to follow Torosyan until patrol officers were able to arrest him, police said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has not filed charges against Torosyan, spokeswoman Shiara Dávila-Morales said.

Incidents involving laser pointing at aircrafts doubled from 1,527 in 2009 to 2,836 in 2010, with the Los Angeles region having the most, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Increased availability to purchase inexpensive lasers on the Internet, production of high-powered lasers, and more pilot reporting likely attributed to the increase, according to the agency.

 
 

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