Man arrested for pointing laser at police helicopter

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Conrad Rzewuski By Catherine Holland Conrad Rzewuski By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – A Phoenix man is in jail after allegedly pointing a laser at a police helicopter.

It happened shortly before 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The helicopter was flying over the neighborhood of 23rd Avenue south of Greenway Road when somebody on the ground pointed a laser at it. Two pilots, both of them Phoenix police officers, were on board the helicopter at the time.

According to Sgt. Tommy Thompson, the helicopter crew was able to direct officers on the ground to where the laser originated.

Officers arrested Conrad Rzewuski, 24. He has been booked into Maricopa County Jail and charged with two counts of endangerment, which is a Class 6 felony.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft might seem harmless, but it is actually very dangerous for pilots, not only causing disorientation but also potentially permanent eye damage. That’s why it’s illegal.

Phoenix leads the nation in such incidents.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would start fining people up to $11,000 per incident of pointing a laser at an aircraft. While the FAA can only file civil charges against an offender, the Phoenix Police Department said it can and will file criminal charges.

“We'll charge them with endangerment, aggravated assault, and interfering with a flight crew," Phoenix Police Chief Pilot Joe Hanss said in June.

Federal officials said in January that these kinds of incidents have increased dramatically. According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, more than 2,800 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft were reported in 2010. That's nearly double the slightly more than 1,500 incidents reported in 2009, and almost 10 times the 300 reports in 2005.