Denver Man Faces Federal Charge for Shining Laser at Police Helicopter

What happened on October 5, 2023?

On that day, Josefat Alejandro Marmolejo-Lucio, a 27-year-old Denver resident, knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at a helicopter operated by the Denver Police Department (DPD). The helicopter, known as Air 1, was flying over the city as part of its routine patrol.

The laser beam endangered the safety of the crew and the public by potentially blinding or distracting the pilot and the observer. The DPD reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which initiated an investigation.

How did the FBI catch the suspect?

The FBI used various investigative techniques to identify and locate Marmolejo-Lucio as the person responsible for the laser strike. They also recovered the laser pointer that he used to target the helicopter.

On January 24, 2024, Marmolejo-Lucio made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak. He was released on bond with conditions that include not possessing any laser pointers.

What are the legal consequences of aiming a laser at an aircraft?

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, Marmolejo-Lucio has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a single count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Police Helicopter

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also stated that this is not the first time that someone has been charged for this offense in Colorado. In August 2023, Kevin William Adamchack, a 43-year-old Franktown man, was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at Air 1 on March 2, 2023.

Why is pointing a laser at an aircraft a serious crime?

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime since 2012, when Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The law was enacted to protect the aviation industry from the growing threat of laser attacks.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), laser incidents involving aircraft have increased significantly in recent years. In 2020, there were 6,852 reported laser strikes in the U.S., compared to 384 in 2006.

The FAA warns that lasers can cause permanent eye damage to pilots and crew members, as well as interfere with flight operations. The agency also urges the public to report any suspicious laser activity to local law enforcement or the FBI.

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