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Teen charged with pointing laser at police helicopter

Maryland State Police have long complained about laser pointers interfering with aircraft. Last year, they demonstrated how even a dime-store pointer can blind a pilot, and police made several arrests (read story on the demonstration).

This morning, they announced charges against a 14-year-old Middle River boy, saying he repeatedly shined a green laser into the cockpit of a state police helicopter as it helped Baltimore County police search for a person threatening to commit suicide. Police describe the lasers this way:

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Here's the full statement from state police:

A Baltimore County juvenile was arrested last night after he endangered an in-flight Maryland State Police helicopter crew by repeatedly spotlighting the aircraft with a green laser.  

The juvenile suspect will only be identified as a 14-year-old male from Middle River. He is charged with reckless endangerment, attempted second degree assault on police, obstruction and hindering police, and prohibited use of a laser pointer.  After processing, he was released to the custody of his parents.

Shortly after 11:00 p.m. yesterday, Trooper One, a Maryland State Police 365N Dauphin III helicopter based at Martin State Airport, was assisting Baltimore County Police with an aerial search for a suicidal person. Pilot Shawn McGinley and Trooper/Flight Paramedic Joshua Heins were flying in the vicinity of Eastern Blvd. and Kingston Road when a flash illuminated the cockpit of the aircraft.

Knowing the potential dangers to the flight crew, Pilot McGinley was initiating precautionary maneuvers when a second bright green laser light illuminated the cockpit once again. The laser beam location was noted directly off the nose of the aircraft exactly one-half mile from the aircraft's search position.

The flight crew was able to pinpoint the residence where the laser beam originated and illuminated the house with a light of their own, the three million candlepower Nite-Sun search light.  Pilot McGinley positioned the aircraft  in a hover in front of the residence. TFC Heins notified the Baltimore County Police dispatcher & SYSCOM of the incident and directed patrol units to the residence.

Within six minutes of the laser incident, Baltimore County police officers arrived at the residence, identified a juvenile suspect, and recovered a green laser pointer. Trooper One then returned to their previous mission in an attempt to locate the suicidal person.      

Shining lasers at aircraft can have very serious and potentially catastrophic effects. A direct laser strike in an aircraft cockpit can cause temporary blindness and disorientation for the flight crew.   If the flash occurs during a critical phase of flight, the crew members can be temporarily incapacitated and unable to perform their in-flight functions effectively.

The Maryland State Police Aviation Command has experienced a half dozen laser incidents in 2011 with two leading to prosecution.  

"The safety of our flight crews is paramount and we continue to remain vigilant to aggressively inform the public of the serious nature of this unnecessary act before any injuries occur," said Lieutenant Walter A. Kerr, Helicopter Operations Commander. "We intend to do everything possible to curtail this activity and allow our flight crews to perform their duties of behalf of the citizens of Maryland."  
    
Aviation Command personnel have contacted the FAA concerning this incident. A cooperative effort with the Baltimore County Police and their quick response led to a positive outcome in this situation.

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