AUBURN, Calif. (KTXL) — Two people were arrested after the California Highway Patrol said they shined lasers at one of its airplanes Friday night.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, laser pointers being shined at aircraft midair happened more than 6,800 times last year and the California Highway Patrol has made nine arrests in 2021.
“It can seem like an innocent tool, however, shining it at aircraft is extremely dangerous and it can cause pilots to lose control of their aircraft,” said Jared Boothe, a six-year veteran flight officer paramedic with the CHP.
The airplane was flying above the Roseville area responding to a call when it was struck by a laser several times, the CHP said.
“As the laser comes through the cockpit, it kind of starbursts and shines all over the place. It can be really disorienting, and you can’t even see your instrumentation that you’re trying to fly with,” Boothe explained.
The pilot managed to point the plane’s camera in the direction of the beams before notifying the Roseville Police Department.
While police officers were responding on the ground, a second person also began shining another laser at the airplane, CHP said.
Both people got into a vehicle and drove away but were stopped and arrested by Roseville police officers. Police say they found three high-powered laser pointers in the car.
A similar incident happened in May while a CHP aircraft was flying over a neighborhood in Sacramento and was hit with a blue laser beam.
Boothe says Friday’s incident and others were intentional.
“They weren’t randomly shooting a laser at a star and our airplane flew through it because it was a couple minutes of continuous shining directly on the airplane,” Boothe explained.
Boothe also says the laser beam incidents have close ties to sideshows.
“You see street racing and people using lasers,” Boothe said. “We had one incident recently where someone was actually using a laser in a road rage incident.”
Boothe says pointing a laser beam at a law enforcement or commercial aircraft is a felony crime and if reported to the FAA, suspects could face up to $30,000 in fines.