An Inland Empire man was sentenced Tuesday to a probationary sentence of community service and fined $1,000 for aiming a laser beam at an Ontario police helicopter, causing a member of the flight crew to be momentarily dazed.
Asarel Felix Lombera, 28, of Fontana pleaded guilty in February to the felony offense, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years behind bars and civil fines.
Tactical flight officers were patrolling near John Galvin Park, just south of Interstate 10 in Ontario, on Feb. 21, 2015, when Lombera aimed his $20 green laser pointer at the police helicopter for roughly 15 seconds, tracking the chopper with the laser and making circles with the beam.
When the laser beam struck the helicopter, it created a prism effect in the cockpit, causing a member of the flight crew to become momentarily dazed and creating a dangerous flight situation, according to court papers.
In his plea agreement, filed in Los Angeles federal court, Lombera admitted that he knew that it was dangerous and distracting to shoot the laser at the helicopter.
“Laser beams are not toys and pointing one at a plane or helicopter in the air is not mischief, but a serious federal crime,” Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said after a previous hearing.
“The clear skies in southern California generate a significant amount of aircraft flying at any given time and, unfortunately, more illegal laser strikes,” she said. “The Ontario Police Department should be commended for acting quickly after their pilot was temporarily disabled by the laser beam, and for identifying the perpetrator on the ground.”
Reports of laser attacks have increased dramatically in recent years, with 1,238 laser strikes reported in California last year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
—City News Service
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