A 35-year-old Glendale man accused of pointing a laser at the cockpit of a Riverside police helicopter, interrupting the crew’s operation, was free Friday on bond.
Ronnie Ruben Kaplan was arrested earlier this week and made his initial court appearance before Riverside-based U.S. District Judge Shashi Kewalramani, who set the defendant’s bail at $500, which he immediately posted.
Kaplan was indicted in November on a single count of aiming a laser at an aircraft, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
According to the FBI, agents had a difficult time locating the defendant, resulting in a months-long search that ended Monday.
The indictment states that on the night of Oct. 13, 2015, Riverside’s Air One patrol helicopter was in the air when Kaplan allegedly aimed a laser beam into the cockpit. It was unclear whether the crew was temporarily blinded, but ground units were notified, and an investigation ensued to identify the source of the assault, the FBI stated.
Agents worked with Riverside police detectives to eventually gather sufficient evidence to build a case against the defendant, officials said.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller noted that laser attacks, often involving over-the-counter devices, have “increased dramatically in the past decade,” and authorities are cracking down whenever possible to deter the criminal activity, which can put pilots and passengers in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, a Jurupa Valley man was arrested for aiming a laser into the cockpit of a Riverside County sheriff’s helicopter.
The District Attorney’s Office has handled multiple prosecutions for laser assaults countywide, which in several cases temporarily blinded the crews.
Kaplan has no pending court dates.
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