EDMONTON — A central Alberta man has been charged under the Federal Aeronautics Act for allegedly shining a laser at a police helicopter.
The 38-year-old allegedly pointed the laser into the police helicopter’s cockpit Wednesday night.
Because the beam was kept on for a prolonged period of time, the crew was able to track it to a vehicle and police on the ground arrested the man from Lacombe.
Police have charged Alvin Bautista, 38, with interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft.
If convicted, he could face up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $100,000.
Acting Staff Sgt. Chris Barbar, with the flight operations unit, said he hopes the charge sends the message that targeting aircraft with dangerous beams is no joke.
By the time the beam travels up to the helicopter, it spreads out to cover the entire chopper, he added.
“I hope it sends the message out that it’s not a game,” he said. “When we shine our spotlight down it’s to catch bad guys, to serve the community. By shining a laser or a flood light, it not only endangers the crew, but the citizens on the ground.”
The police helicopter in Edmonton has been the target of laser beams in the past and one person was charged with mischief in 2001.
But police say other incidents have resulted in no charges because they couldn’t trace where the laser came from.
“Some people are annoyed with the helicopter,” Barbar said. “They think, ‘they get to shine their light on the ground, we get to shine one up in the air.”’