VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — A Vacaville man was arrested after the California Highway Patrol says he pointed a laser at one of their airplane pilots.
CHP officers were already in Vacaville, helping Solano County sheriff’s deputies with an unrelated call when the pilot was struck by a blue laser shortly before 11 p.m. Monday.
The CHP says after the pilot was struck in the eyes with the laser, he immediately put the aircraft on autopilot until he was able to regain control of the plane.
As the flight officer zeroed in on the location of the laser on the ground, the suspect continued to flash beams at the pilot.
But deputies successfully closed in on the suspect.
“We were able to safely take him into arrest. Worked out great,” said Solano County Sheriff’s Deputy Cully Pratt.
Deputies responded to the area of Dally and Hay roads in rural Vacaville, where they took local resident 33-year-old Christopher Larsen into custody.
Larsen faces a felony charge of discharging a laser at an aircraft, along with a federal code violation of aiming a laser at an aircraft.
But Monday night’s incident is among several recent ones in the area.
“Both the pilot from CHP Golden Gate Division and from Travis Air Force Base have also had some issues with people shining lights and lasers at the pilots over the past month,” Deputy Pratt told FOX40.
The location of Larsen’s arrest appears to lie in the flight path of aircraft from Travis Air Force Base. Investigators are trying to determine if Larsen may be connected to other similar incidents.
In the meantime, the officials say it’s fortunate that no one was hurt.
“If we get hit by a laser, we can become instantly blind and not see where we need to be. And obviously, flying an aircraft, that can be quite hazardous,” said Alan Johnson, a Vacaville pilot who flies charitable medical transports for Angel Flights.
Johnson said the light from a single laser can do immense damage.
“Things can go wrong in an aircraft instantaneously,” he said. “So, if you’re down for five seconds, it can be very hazardous. It could be life or death.”