Gwinnett County

Man charged with aiming laser pointer at police helicopter in Gwinnett County

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A man was arrested for allegedly pointing a laser toward a police helicopter in Gwinnett County over the weekend, an act police say makes it dangerously difficult for pilots to navigate at night.

While doing a security check near Gwinnett Place Mall on Saturday night, a pilot with Gwinnett County’s Aviation Unit reported multiple laser strikes that caused a disruption in the cockpit. The pilot used cameras on board to zero in on the suspect and police officers on the ground helped locate him and arrest him.

The plexiglass windshield combined with night vision technology on board can amplify the effects of laser pointers when pointed directly at the cockpit.

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“It could have a very dangerous effect and potentially blind the pilot and cause it to crash,” said Officer Hideshi Valle with Gwinnett County Police.

Aurelio Bautista, 36, was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft and booked into the Gwinnett County Jail Saturday night. He posted $1,300 bond before his release the next day, according to jail records.

In February, Gwinnett Police say two laser strikes hit the aviation unit aboard AIR 1 in one week leading to at least one arrest.

Across the country, Federal Aviation Administration data shows that reported laser strikes are up 67 percent over the past five years with nearly 9,500 reported cases last year.

Gwinnett County Police say this is a crime more people need to take seriously.

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“It is not only dangerous to the pilot but it’s dangerous to the citizens and everyone in the area,” said Valle.

Pointing a laser pointer at any type of aircraft in the sky is a felony.

The punishment ranges from just a fine to up to five years in prison.

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