LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky man is facing federal charges for pointing a laser at Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) helicopter pilots.
The US States Attorney Russell Coleman said the pilots experience temporary blindness, headaches and it impaired their ability to safely pilot the chopper.
The incident happened on Friday morning around 12:15 a.m. while the LMPD helicopter was performing surveillance of a vehicle leaving the scene of an alleged Walgreens burglary, according to an FBI press release.
During their investigation, FBI agents were able to determine the exact location of where the laser was pointed. Manuel Martin Salazarleija Jr. was located at a house in Eastern, Ky, the FBI said.
According to the FBI, Salazarleija allegedly admitted, to agents, he intentionally aimed the beam of the laser pointer at the LMPD helicopter while the aircraft was in flight. He said he was trying to disrupt the helicopter that he assumed was surveilling the protests in Louisville, the FBI said.
They said Salazarleija also admitted to dismantling the laser pointer and hiding it in a crawl space within his bedroom. Salazarleija allegedly told agents he shined the laser from his bedroom window located on the third floor of the house.
Salazarleija is facing a charge of aiming a laser at an Aircraft. The charge carries a fine or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, according to the FBI.
“Aiming a laser at our helicopter is not only illegal but it puts the lives of our officers in great danger,” said LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder. “We appreciate the support of our federal partners at the FBI and the US Attorney Russell Coleman.”
The case is being investigated by the Louisville Metro Police Department and the FBI.