An 18-year-old North Hollywood man has been indicted under a new law that makes it a federal crime to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft.
Adam Gardenhire was arrested early Wednesday at his North Hollywood home for allegedly pointing a laser at a private Cessna aircraft on approach to Bob Hope Airport on March 29. He then allegedly pointed the laser at a police helicopter that had been called in to find the source of the flash.
Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He is only the second person in the U.S. to be charged under the federal statute, according to the FBI.
Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, of Orlando, was charged in a criminal complaint last month with pointing lasers on multiple occasions between January and March 23 at passenger aircraft departing from Orlando International Airport, forcing pilots to take evasive maneuvers during takeoff, Laura Emiller, of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said this week.
Gardenhire was arrested about two hours after the first flash was reported at about 8:45 p.m. March 29. He posted bail and was released to his parents while a joint investigation was carried out by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office, which filed the indictment.
“It is a serious crime,” Emiller said. “There are no cases of a plane actually going down as result of a laser attack, but the Federal Aviation Administration and law enforcement feel the potential is there to blind a pilot [who may not be able] to recover when landing.”
Given that lasers have become more potent and reach higher altitudes, there is “grave concern that it’s just a matter of time before damage beyond impaired vision is done,” Emiller added.
“We’d like the announcement of these cases to be a deterrent for anyone who believes it’s just mischief or fun,” she said. “It’s a dangerous activity, and a crime.”
California consistently leads the nation in reports of laser attacks, the FBI said.
In 2005 there were 305 incidents of laser pointing reported in California and more than 3,500 last year, Emiller said. The increase is partially attributed to pilots being trained to report the incidents, she said.
Commercial-grade lasers are increasingly available online and some can be purchased for less than $100.
If convicted of both charges in the indictment, Gardenhire faces a maximum 10 years in federal prison, in addition to civil penalties levied by the FAA.
The investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Burbank police departments, the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI.