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Sheriff’s deputies arrest man suspected of hitting California Highway Patrol plane with blue laser

Sheriff's deputies arrest man suspected of hitting California Highway Patrol plane with blue laser. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Solano County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 33-year-old man suspected of pointing a blue laser at a pilot flying a California Highway Patrol airplane late Monday.

The CHP’s Golden Gate Division Air Operations posted a video of the laser strike on its Facebook page Tuesday. The video shows the blue laser hitting the plane and deputies apprehending the suspect.

The Solano County Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page announced Tuesday that deputies arrested Christopher Larsen on felony charges related to intentionally interfering with CHP air operations.

About 10:50 p.m. Monday, the CHP plane, Air-31, was heading to the Napa County Airport in Napa after completing a search, when the flight crew was struck by the blue laser.

CHP officials said the suspect pointed the laser directly at the aircraft, hitting a CHP pilot in the eye. The pilot maintained control of the aircraft after engaging the auto-pilot mechanism.

The flight officer then directed the plane’s camera to where the laser was coming from as the suspect continued to strike the aircraft with the laser, according to the CHP.

Sheriff’s deputies were notified and they quickly arrived at the origin of the laser strikes. The CHP said the deputies found the suspect in possession of the laser.

Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield has received several reports of lasers hitting military and civilian aircraft over the past few days. The CHP said it was unclear whether the suspect arrested Monday night is connected to other reported laser strikes the Solano County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Deputies arrested the suspect and booked him at Solano County Jail. The CHP said the suspect could face federal charges along with fines from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Many high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots, according to warning on the FAA’s website. Last year, the FAA said 5,663 laser incidents in 2018 were down from 6,754 in 2017 and 7,398 in 2016, but the numbers showed that laser strikes remain a serious threat.


© 2020 The Sacramento Bee