A Sykesville man struck a Maryland State Police helicopter with a laser early Monday morning, state police said Monday.
Connor Grant Brown, 30, of the 1200 block on Canterbury Drive in Sykesville, has been charged with reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.
Police said the Trooper 3 helicopter was assisting the Carroll County Sheriff's Office with an investigation in the area of the 800 block of Klees Mill Road. Col. Larry Suther, of the Sheriff's Office, said deputies were looking for a man who had been stopped by Natural Resources Police for defacing something in a park. When the man ran, he ran without his shoes and law enforcement was concerned for his safety as the temperature dropped, Suther said.
While the helicopter was taking part in the investigation, its cockpit was struck by a green laser approximately eight times.
Pilot Todd Hyson and crew chief Sgt. Gregg Lantz were both transported to Frederick Memorial Hospital for treatment after sustaining eye injuries and were later released, police said.
Officials said shining lasers into cockpits temporarily blinds pilots, causes disorientation and could lead to crashes.
"Shining any kind of laser at a aircraft can have deadly consequences," said Elena Russo, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Police. "Our flight crews are out there serving and protecting our citizens, and to have something like this happen showed the consequences because two of the four people on board were affected."
The crew was forced to abort the mission in support of the Sheriff's Office investigation in an attempt to find the source of the laser beam, police said. They located the source on Canterbury Drive. A Carroll County sheriff's deputy responded.
According to police, a subsequent investigation revealed Brown had operated the device that struck the helicopter.
Brown was released on his own recognizance at 9:22 a.m. Monday, according to the Carroll County Central Booking Unit.
The National Business Aviation Association, an industry group, has cited laser strikes as a growing threat to air safety. In 2015, 6,000 laser strike incidents were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year, according to the group.
Russo said the FBI and the FAA have been notified of the incident and federal charges are possible.
The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.
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