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Press Release

Bakersfield Resident Sentenced for Pointing a Laser at Kern County Sheriff Helicopter

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Jose Javier Rosas, aka Jose Javier Rosas Jimenez 62, of Bakersfield, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for aiming the beam of a high-powered laser pointer at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

The sentence follows Rosas’s guilty last fall. According to court documents, Rosas struck and tracked Air-1 with a green laser pointer during the evening hours. As a result, the pilot experienced glare, flash blindness, significant loss of night vision, watering eyes, and eye pain and was forced to divert attention from assisting in the search for a robbery suspect.

“Pointing a laser at any aircraft is a reckless action which has potential to cause a catastrophic incident affecting both the air crew and community.  In this case, the airmen were impaired by the laser but were able to safely divert from the planned operation,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI Sacramento field office. “Due to the risk to public safety, anyone who witnesses an individual shining a laser at aircraft or any vehicle should immediately report the activity to law enforcement to protect the safety of the community.”

“As this sentence makes clear, Mr. Rosas’ actions put the life of this aircraft’s pilot and the safety of the general public in peril,” said Ryan Spradlin, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco, which oversees HSI’s enforcement efforts throughout northern California. “In addition to the jail term, this defendant will face removal to his native Mexico upon completion of his prison time. HSI will continue to use its resources and unique enforcement authorities to protect our communities from those who engage in criminal activity that endangers our citizens.”

Reports of laser attacks on aircraft have increased dramatically in recent years as powerful laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. Last year, there were 7,702 laser strikes, or 21.16 laser incidents per day, reported in the United States. In the Eastern District of California, which encompasses 34 counties, including Kern County, in the eastern portion of California, there were 214 reported incidents. So far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration reports over 24 laser incidents per day nationwide. Aviators, such as helicopter pilots, are particularly vulnerable to laser illuminations when conducting low-level flight operations at night.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted this case.

Updated February 1, 2016

Press Release Number: 1:15-cr-042 LJO