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Press Release

Bakersfield Man Charged with Laser Strikes of Police Helicopter

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment today against Jesse Torres-Alonso, 35, of Bakersfield, charging him with aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, on Sept. 28, 2023, Torres struck a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter (Air One) 12 times with a dangerously bright green laser beam. The laser strikes interfered with the pilot’s ability to see and avoid other aircraft and effectively monitor the aircraft instrument panel. Law enforcement officers were able to locate and seize the laser device, which bore a prominent warning label, stating, “DANGER,” and warned against shining the light in the eyes.

The Federal Aviation Administration received 13,304 reports of laser strikes from pilots last year, marking a 41% increase over the 9,457 reported during 2022 and setting a record for the growing hazard.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Torres faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charge is only an allegation; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated March 21, 2024