Laser pen targets police helicopter
A 26-year-old man was taken into custody after someone pointed a green laser pen at the Winnipeg police helicopter as it flew over the city on Thursday morning.
At about 12:10 a.m., officers in the AIR-1 chopper radioed in to say they were being targeted by someone in the 200 block of Toronto Street.
The 39-year-old female pilot was struck directly in the eyes by the laser light, which entered the helicopter through the lower pilot-side front window, according to police.
Officers quickly pinpointed the house where they believed the laser was used and made an arrest at 12:15 a.m.
"It's a very, very dangerous thing when individuals point lasers at anybody in an aircraft. Obviously, you can see the possible ramifications of it," Police Chief Keith McCaskill told CBC News.
The effects of this bright light being focused on the cockpit at night can startle and distract the flight crew, and cause vision problems ranging from a simple annoyance to temporary blindness, stated a news release from the police service.
Bright light sources subsequently affect the pilot's ability to safely operate the aircraft, and can lead to catastrophic circumstances.
"Whether it's somebody playing a joke or thinking it's a cool thing to do, it's really not. And we do take it very seriously," McCaskill said.
Sheldon Friesen told CBC News he had no idea the laser pointer he was "goofing around" with would obstruct the police helicopter.
He said he got off work Wednesday night and was playing with the 99-cent pointer he bought on eBay, pointing it up at the sky when he saw AIR-1.
He wanted to see how far the laser would go tested to see if it would reach the chopper.
Friesen said he was cooperative with police and explained his thinking when they showed up on his doorstep.
He has been released on a promise to appear in court and will be facing a number of charges. The exact nature of the charges are being considered through consultation with the Crown attorney's office, police said.
Directing a bright light source at an aircraft is an offence under section 7.41(1) of the Aeronautics Act of Canada, and Section 601.20 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Penalties can range from fines of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both.