At least seven people have been arrested this month for allegedly targeting police helicopters with lasers, particularly during illegal street takeovers, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Only one of the seven was identified: Xavier Randall, 21, who was arrested July 2 for aiming a laser at a police helicopter during a street takeover, according to an LAPD press release. Randall was charged with an assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and a second, unspecified charge.
The six other people who were arrested are awaiting criminal charges from the prosecutor’s office, authorities said.
“The laser strikes pose a serious risk of injury to the pilots and crew of the aircraft,” the department said in a statement. “The attack has created its own criminal code because of the risk to the general public posed by an incapacitated or blind pilot.”
In November 2020, Los Angeles banned the possession of laser pointers and laser-like devices during public demonstrations, rallies, protests or picket lines.
According to the LAPD, there has been “a significant increase in the number of arrests” in recent months related to the laser beams aimed at police officers and airplanes. Lasers are a common gimmick in illegal street takeovers, often used in conjunction with fireworks to draw attention to the event.
on July 6, LAPD chief Michel Moore tweeted about two incidents where people pointed green lasers at cops responding to street takeovers. Those people were arrested, Moore said, and charged with firing a laser.
Targeting lasers at planes seems to be a growing problem not just in California, but across the country. According to Federal Aviation Administration data, 9,723 incidents of laser strikes were reported to the FAA in 2021 — the highest number of incidents ever reported. As of June 31, there were 4,349 cases nationwide.
In California, intentionally aiming a laser at someone is a crime punishable by up to 30 days in prison. Intentionally aiming a laser at a police plane can be both a misdemeanor and a misdemeanor, with charges ranging from one to three years in prison, depending on how the DA’s office chooses to pursue the charges.