FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A man faces several charges after a video allegedly caught him pointing a laser at a Broward Sheriff’s Office helicopter in Fort Lauderdale.
He is not only accused of using a laser but also pretending to be an officer, according to deputies.
Pilots Oscar Gonzalez and Elier Vaguez worked the Broward Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit night shift Friday, after reckless drivers were reported apparently doing doughnuts in the middle of a busy street around the 1200 block of Northwest 55th Street.
Authorities said 18-year-old Alex Singleton was behind the wheel of a car not only pointing the laser at the pilot but also using red and blue lights that mimic that of a police car.
“We immediately just told each other, ‘Oh, we just got hit by a laser,” said Vaguez.
“Lights up the whole cockpit, and that can actually send us to the ground and totally disorient us,” said Gonzalez.
The Federal Aviation Administration said laser pointers can incapacitate a pilot by causing glare or what’s called flash blindness, making it difficult to see after exposure to high intensity light.
“Unfortunately, we see the green, a lot brighter and a lot more. It’s more of a flash for us,” said Gonzalez.
“We need our eyes and our reference to the instruments when we’re flying,” said Vaguez.
“When it hits the windshield, everything goes green, so that’s the only thing we’re seeing,” said BSO Sgt. Christopher Marchese.
Back in 2019, Marchese told 7News it had happened to him about 10 times.
“It’s dangerous. It’s definitely not fun,” said Marchese. “It’s not funny. It’s not fun for us, you know. It’s my life up there. It’s my crew member’s life, and you know, potentially everyone on the ground below me.”
Aiming a laser pointer at a pilot is against federal law.
Singleton was taken into custody soon after he was spotted by the chopper. He told police that he did use the laser pointer in the direction of the helicopter, but he didn’t mean to.
“We are full fuel, we have the rotor blades and, you know, it’s dangerous not only to the people, for us, especially for us, but also the people on the ground,” said Gonzalez.
Singleton faces three criminal charges for using a laser pointer, obstruction of police and resisting, fleeing and eluding.
As for the laser pointer, he also can face a civil fine of up to $11,000 from the FAA.
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