Laser strikes York police helicopter, Vaughan teen charged

A 19-year-old man is facing a handful of charges after a York Regional Police helicopter was hit with a laser beam while responding to a weapons call over the weekend.

Incident happened early Sunday as authorities responded to weapons call

York police quickly located a suspect after a laser beam hit the force's helicopter early Sunday morning. (York Regional Police/YouTube)

A 19-year-old man is facing a handful of charges after a York Regional Police helicopter was hit with a laser beam while responding to a weapons call over the weekend.

The force's Air2 helicopter was flying over the area of Highway 7 and Pine Valley Drive at 1:30 a.m. Sunday in Vaughan. The chopper was assisting officers on the ground who were searching for a suspect on a weapons call.

The helicopter was hit several times by a bright light from the area near Jenna Court.

"These guys are continuously hitting us here," the officer on board the aircraft says in a video of the incident posted to YouTube, adding that he will have to leave the area.

The flight officer used the on-board camera to spot three men standing by a car at the end of Jenna Court

In the video, several bright green flashes appear in the sky before it cuts to an overhead shot of the three suspects. One suspect starts running, jumps over a fence, drops an object he is holding and keeps running.

"We're going to stay with the target," the on-board officer says. "We know where the laser is."

The officer on board then guides officers on the ground to the object, which was later determined to be a pellet gun with a laser scope mounted on top.

Officers with the canine unit tracked the first suspect through a wooded area with the help of the chopper. He was arrested while trying to hide underneath some trees.

The video ends with an overhead shot of a group of officers surrounding a suspect, who appears to have his hands in cuffs behind his back.

Nicholas Caranci, 19, of Vaughan, is charged with mischief endangering life. He is also facing a charge of unlawfully engaging in behaviour that endangers an aircraft under the Aeronautics Act and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace under the Canadian Aviation Regulation.

Caranci is a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces. A military spokesperson says he is a private with the 32 Service Battalion but is not considered an active member. 

Caranci is scheduled to appear in court in Newmarket on Sept. 18.

Pilots blinded by lasers

The Vaughan incident is the latest in a series of laser strikes to hit pilots and police in recent years. One year ago, a Richmond Hill teen was also charged after the York police chopper was struck by a laser beam.

Police warn that pointing lasers at aircraft can cause "flash blindness" for a pilot, where the image of the flash remains in the eye for several seconds.

"For a pilot in control of an aircraft flying over populated areas, the consequences can be serious," the force warns in a news release. "Those who aim these pointers at aircraft are putting lives in danger, not only in the aircraft, but on the ground. This is a serious potential for harm to the pilot and the prospect of a crash."

Anyone with additional information about the incident is asked to call investigators at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7441, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


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