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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fresno Man Indicted for Laser Strike on Fresno Police Helicopter

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment today against Michael Vincent Alvarez, 32, of Fresno, charging him with aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a Fresno Police Department helicopter, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, it is alleged that on October 22, 2017, just after midnight, Alvarez struck a Fresno Police helicopter several times with a powerful green laser. The laser caused visual interference of the Tactical Flight Officer and disrupted an air support response to a domestic violence call. Alvarez was driving a vehicle on Highway 99 when he allegedly pointed the laser at the helicopter and tracked and struck it. When ground units were called to apprehend Alvarez, he drove through the streets of Fresno at a high rate of speed, eluding officers for several miles until he crashed into the center divider at First Street and Floradora Avenue. Following the crash, Alvarez ran into a residential area, jumping several fences until he was arrested in a backyard. A green laser pointer that officers found inside the driver side door pocket of Alvarez’s vehicle had a danger warning on it.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Alvarez 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 charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated November 9, 2017