Man arrested for pointing laser at helicopter

January 28, 2010 12:57:16 PM PST
Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies arrested a San Jose man Tuesday evening after he allegedly pointed a powerful green laser at a sheriff's helicopter flying overhead.

Discharging a laser at an aircraft is a felony, because the beam can impair pilots' vision and cause major safety concerns.

The sheriff's special operations division helicopter, Star 1, was patrolling in the Cambrian area of unincorporated San Jose when a high-powered green laser light struck the cockpit at about 6:15 p.m., according to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Rick Sung.

The laser beam can cause temporary blindness or "after images" in the eye, Sung said.

The tactical flight officer, a sheriff's deputy who handles devices like night vision and navigation systems in the cockpit, spotted the source of the beam, Sung said.

"That's what he's trained to do," Sung said. "Sure enough he was able to locate where the laser was coming from."

The laser appeared to come from a man standing in the parking lot of a business in the 2000 block of Woodard Road. The deputy saw the man get into his silver Honda and leave the parking lot. He coordinated with deputies on the ground, as the man shone the laser beam at the helicopter several more times, Sung said.

Deputies on the ground stopped the man, 23-year-old Ryen Miller, near Bascom and Union avenues and took him into custody, according to Sung. He was booked into the main jail, but was released on $25,000 bail.

If convicted, charges of discharging a green laser at an aircraft carry a prison sentence of up to five years, according to the sheriff's department.