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Man arrested for shining powerful laser at police helicopter

August 15, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

A 30-year-old man was arrested Sunday night after he allegedly flashed a high-powered blue laser twice at a Glendale police helicopter, officials said.

Avo Garabedian was taken into custody about 10 p.m. at Calle La Primavera in Glendale on suspicion of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft after the aircrew spotted him and he tried fleeing the scene, said Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson, who oversees the air unit.

The incident was the first time that the aircrew has been struck with a one-watt, or 1,000 milliwatt, blue light laser, which is significantly more powerful than a green laser, Robertson said. Green lasers have been typically used in laser pointing incidents involving police helicopters.

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“We look at this as an assault on our flight crew,” he said, adding that no one was injured in the incident.

The blue laser, he said, has been advertised as the most powerful handheld laser made and strong enough to burn through plastic.

The laser is even shown in video footage as being powerful enough to start a match, said Robertson, who also teaches aviation safety at USC.

“Just imagine what that could do to someone’s retinas,” he said.

The helicopter was flying east on the Foothill (210) Freeway, near the Glendale (2) Freeway, when they were suddenly struck by the laser, Robertson said.

The crew couldn’t initially find the source of the laser, so they continued flying east.

But after the second laser blast, they were able to pinpoint the source to a fire road about a mile and half away and east of the Glendale police shooting range.

Robertson said they saw Garabedian and another man running out of the fire road and enter a vehicle.

Patrol units were dispatched to the Camino San Rafael and Calle La Primavera area, where they stopped the pair.

Garabedian is the third arrest made this summer in connection with pointing lasers at a police helicopter.

The Federal Aviation Administration has recorded 14 laser-pointing incidents for aircraft at or near Bob Hope Airport so far this year, agency spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Pilots reported 17 laser-pointing incidents in 2010 for the same area, he added.

Still, Gregor said pilots are reporting fewer incidents this year in the Los Angeles region compared to the same time last year.

“It could be that the people who were arrested were responsible for a significant number of laser incidents,” Gregor said.

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