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El Paso Man Arrested And Charged In Alleged Laser Strike Incident

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2014

In El Paso today, FBI agents arrested 28–year-old Don Ray Dorsett for allegedly pointing a laser at an aircraft flying overhead announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

In February 2012, President Barrack Obama signed the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012” and added a new provision that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.  This week, the federal grand jury in El Paso returned a one-count indictment charging Dorsett with violating that provision (Title 18 United States Code Section 39A—Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft).  The indictment alleges that on January 4, 2014, Dorsett knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at a helicopter flying overhead.  The aircraft belonged to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“Although no one was injured during this incident, laser strikes can pose serious risks to flight crews, passengers, and even individuals on the ground.  Laser strikes are a serious public safety hazard and will be treated as such by law enforcement officials,” stated United States Attorney Robert Pitman. 

Upon conviction, the defendant faces up to five years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. 

“Today’s arrest of Don Dorsett is a prime example of the cooperative and collaborative relationship between the FBI and our local partners.  The FBI, in tandem with the Texas Department of Public Safety and our other local law enforcement partners, take aircraft safety seriously.   The FBI will continue to vigorously investigate and seek prosecution for those engaged in laser strikes on aircrafts and other criminal activity involving aircrafts and innocent bystanders,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

This indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the El Paso Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Stanley Serwatka is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Reported incidents of laser strikes are on the rise. Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics reflect a more than 1,100% increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers. In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported – an average of almost 11 incidents per day.

Earlier this month, the FBI announced the inception of the Laser Threat Awareness Campaign, a nationwide effort led by the FBI in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) and the FAA to raise awareness of aircraft laser illumination threats.  If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the El Paso FBI at 915-832-5000.  If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the nearest local law enforcement agency immediately by dialing 911. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

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