Authorities say a California man who was arrested after crashing during a high-speed chase allegedly “thought it would be funny” to flash a laser at a police helicopter, Ars Technica reports. Such laser strikes are dangerous because they can disorient pilots and endanger their passengers and people on the ground. The FAA reports roughly 5000 laser strikes per year around the US, though this might be the most dramatic and idiotic case yet.
A protester aims a laser pointer at a riot police officer in Athens, Greece. (Photo: AP)
According to federal charging documents filed last week, Michael Vincent Alvarez tracked a Fresno Police helicopter from the highway just after midnight on October 22, firing a green laser into the cockpit, striking the pilot’s eyes three times. The pilot, assisting police with a domestic violence call, reported being momentarily blinded, but maintained control of the helicopter.
Flashing the light, of course, revealed the laser’s location to the pilot, who then radioed officers on the ground, leading to a “high speed pursuit” as Alvarez allegedly sped down the highway. It didn’t last long – authorities say Alvarez soon crashed into the central divider on Highway 99, fleeing on foot through a nearby residential area, remarkably sustaining only minor injuries to his legs in the crash.
According to police, Alvarez stopped the car twice during the chase to drop off passengers. Authorities say one of them, an unnamed woman, told police she’d been travelling with Alvarez on the way to a friend’s house. According to her, Alvarez “thought it would be funny” to point a laser at the helicopter.
It wasn’t. And this is where we count all the ways Alvarez played himself.
The passengers dropped off during the pursuit acted as witnesses for the police against Alvarez. Although there have been thousands of laser attacks against pilots, Ars Technica reports only a small fraction of those cases resulted in convictions, even when suspects were arrested. The charges can be tough to prove, but Alvarez provided a car of witnesses.
Because of Alvarez’s injury, he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. During the examination, a doctor allegedly found baggies of weed, crystal meth and cocaine between Alvarez’s legs near his groin, only adding to his charges. And finally, when Alvarez was caught, police ID’d him using a fingerprint scanner, only to discover he was already wanted on two outstanding felony warrants. Incredible.
Alvarez was indicted last Thursday and faces up to five years in prison for the strike attack alone.