Man Arrested for Spotlighting MSP Helicopter with Laser

SYKESVILLE, Md. (November 24, 2010)—A Carroll County man was arrested late last night after he endangered an in-flight Maryland State Police helicopter crew by repeatedly spotlighting the aircraft with a laser.

The accused is identified as David H. Hopwood, 35, of the 7000-block of Bristol Place, Sykesville, Md. He is charged with reckless endangerment, attempted second degree assault on a law enforcement officer, and prohibited use of a laser pointer.

At about 10 p.m. yesterday, State Police Pilot Marcus Alborghini and flight paramedic Trooper First Class Gregg Lantz, were flying in Trooper 3, a State Police helicopter based in Frederick. The crew was returning from a medevac flight to Baltimore.

The helicopter was flying over the Sykesville area when it was struck by a green laser flash. Knowing the potential dangers for a flight crew, the pilot and flight paramedic took immediate precautions as they worked to locate the source of the laser. The crew contacted the Westminster Barrack and troopers responded to the area, as did an officer from the Sykesville Police Department.

While in the area, the helicopter was struck at least four more times by the laser. The crew of Trooper 3 located the residence the laser was being emitted from and used the helicopter spotlight to light the area. Trooper 3 landed near Obrecht Road and TFC Lantz was transported to the residence that had been identified.

Troopers contacted Hopwood at the residence. Further investigation led to his identification as the person responsible for shining the laser on the aircraft. The laser pointer was recovered from Hopwood. He was arrested without further incident.

Shining lasers at aircraft can have dangerous and even deadly consequences. A direct laser strike in the cockpit can cause temporary blindness and disorientation for the flight crew. When the strike occurred last night, TFC Lantz was wearing night vision goggles, which significantly increase any light source and, when struck by a laser, can blind the person wearing the goggles, as well as seriously damage the night vision equipment.

“The use of a laser to target in-flight aircraft is a very dangerous and irresponsible act,” said Captain Mark Gibbons, Commander of the Maryland State Police Aviation Command. “While our flight crews are in the air serving and protecting our citizens, we will not have them jeopardized in this way. We intend to do everything possible to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who endanger our flight crews, or any other aircraft flying in Maryland. I appreciate the assistance of troopers from the Westminster Barrack and officers from the Sykesville Police Department who assisted in last night’s arrest. We have similar partnerships across the state and are working with our allied law enforcement aviation units to address this serious issue.”

Aviation Command personnel have already contacted federal authorities concerning this incident. The potential for federal charges against the accused is being reviewed.

Source: MSP HQ, Pikesville

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