Wichita Man Charged With Laser Strike on KHP Plane
WICHITA, KAN. – A Wichita man was indicted today on charges of striking a Kansas Highway Patrol aircraft with a beam from a laser pointer, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
Armando Rodriguez-Leyva, 29, Wichita, is charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office are campaigning to educate the public about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft. When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. The effect is similar to a flashbulb going off in a dark car at night. Each year, thousands of laser strikes are reported, and the FBI estimates that thousands more go unreported. For more information, visit this web page: https://www.fbi.gov/video-repository/laser-campaign-soundbites-for-media.mov/view
“Engaging in such activity is not a prank; it is extremely dangerous and a federal felony offense,” McAllister said. “Federal authorities are dedicated to rapidly bringing offenders to justice. The charge in this case was brought, and the defendant was arrested, within 5 days of the alleged commission of the offense.”
According to court documents, on December 15 a fixed wing aircraft owned and operated by the Kansas Highway Patrol for law enforcement purposes was flying over south Wichita to assist local law enforcement agents with a case. During the flight, a green-colored laser struck the aircraft several times and illuminated the cockpit of the aircraft, presenting a serious risk to the pilot.
The pilot tracked the laser light to a residence in the 1100 block of South Terrace in Wichita. The defendant was sitting in a car behind the residence when he was arrested.
If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. The Kansas Highway Patrol, the Wichita Police Department and the FBI investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan McCarty is prosecuting.
Amy S. Bell, 40, Wichita, Kan., is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm following a felony conviction. The crime is alleged to have occurred Nov. 13, 2018, in Wichita.
If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan McCarty is prosecuting.
Roberto Equihua-Garcia, 39, who is not a United States citizen, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being deported. He was found Nov. 16, 2018, in Johnson County, Kan.
If convicted, he faces up to two years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask is prosecuting.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.