Fresno Man Pleads Guilty to Laser Strike on Police Helicopter
FRESNO, Calif. — Michael Vincent Alvarez, 32, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to striking Air-1, a Fresno Police Department helicopter, with a green laser beam, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, on October 22, 2017, 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.
Alvarez is scheduled for sentencing on May 21, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd. Alvarez is facing a five-year sentence and a fine of $250,000. The actual sentence, however, will 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.
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.