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    Man Who ‘Test Fired’ Laser at Sheriff’s Helicopter Sentenced to Prison

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    A California man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after firing a green laser pointer at a sheriff’s helicopter.

    Barry Lee Bowser, 52, became the 13th person to be charged with laser-related crimes in the Eastern District of California following his two day long trial.

    The incident took place on September 12, 2014, when Bowser claims he had just replaced the batteries in his laser pointer and was testing it out.  The beam was aimed at a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was supporting ground units by tracking a man with a gun.  The pilot claims he was hit with the beam twice as he flew 400-500 feet above the ground.

    The helicopter’s mission had to be diverted over the laser beams, as the pilot claimed he experienced flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain which lasted several hours, a US Attorney’s Office press release stated.

    In May, an appeals court overturned a California high school students 30-month prison sentence for pointing a laser at a small aircraft, stating that the sentence was too extreme and that he should receive no more than ten months.

    In June, the same court ruled that a man named Sergio Rodriguez’s 14-year prison sentence for pointing a laser at two helicopters was also too extreme, Ars Technica reported.

    As laser pointers have become more affordable and widely available, reports of laser attacks on aircrafts has risen dramatically.

    In 2014, there were 3,894 reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of laser incidents, with 150 coming from the Eastern District in California.

    The FAA warns that lasers can completely incapacitate pilots, endangering them, their crew, passengers, as well as people on the ground.


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    Laser Pointer, Kern County Sheriff's Office, Barry Lee Bowser, Fresno, Kern County, California
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