Four men charged with aiming laser pointers at police helicopters
ATLANTA - Daniel Maloney, Fredy Contreras, Timothy Wilson, and Theodore Rowe have been arraigned on federal charges of aiming laser pointers at police helicopters. All four were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 13, 2022.
“Pointing lasers at an aircraft is extremely dangerous,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “A laser aimed at an aircraft blinds the pilot and makes it difficult if not impossible for the persons in the cockpit to read their instruments. Persons who are found pointing lasers at aircraft will be prosecuted.”
“When aimed at an aircraft, a beam of light from a handheld laser can illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding the pilot or pilots of the craft, and in this case, preventing police from completing important public safety work,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “It's not a game. It's a federal felony that the FBI and our law enforcement partners take very seriously.”
“Irresponsibly using and aiming a laser device at any civil, commercial, military, or law enforcement aircraft seriously compromises safe aviation operations,” said Todd Damiani, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Southeastern Region. “These arrests on federal charges should serve as a warning that engaging in this dangerous and criminal activity is unacceptable.”
“The Atlanta Police Department takes the safety of our officers seriously, whether on the ground or in the air,” said Interim Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum. “The fact that these defendants used laser pointers to endanger the lives of members of our Phoenix Air Unit and the safety of people on the ground, is very disturbing. The federal charges brought forth against these men sends a message that irresponsible actions and criminal activity will not be tolerated.”
“The Gwinnett Police Department is thankful for the diligence the FAA and FBI both have for continuing the mission of educating the public on how dangerous it is to point a laser at any aircraft. Our department will not allow these offences interfere with the Aviation Unit’s operations and the department’s mission of serving and protecting the residents of Gwinnett with first class law enforcement service, including airborne response,” said Chief James D. McClure, Gwinnett County Police Department.
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges, and other information presented in court, each defendant aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter as the helicopter was assisting officers on the ground: Around 9:50 p.m. on February 13, 2020, a Gwinnett County Police Department helicopter was assisting officers in looking for a robbery suspect who had fled into a wooded area. Daniel Maloney saw the helicopter in the air and pointed a red laser at it, temporarily blinding the pilot and the tactical flight officer. They had to stop looking for the robbery suspect, switch to infrared vision, and look for the source of the red laser. Ground units went to Maloney’s home, where an officer found Maloney still pointing his laser at the helicopter.
Around 9:00 p.m. on November 9, 2020, as a Gwinnett County Police Department helicopter was assisting officers on the ground looking for a stolen vehicle, it was hit at least twice with a green laser. Using the infrared camera, the tactical officer was able to identify the home that the laser was aimed from. Officers on the ground went to the home, where Fredy Contreras admitted that he had been shining the laser at the helicopter.
In the early evening hours of May 26, 2021, an Atlanta Police Department helicopter was assisting grounds units with looking for a missing 6-year-old boy. The helicopter was struck several times by a green laser. After switching over to protective eye gear that minimized the light from the laser, the pilot was able to identify the home where the laser strikes were coming from. Officers on the ground went to the home, where Timothy Wilson admitted that he had been shining the laser at the helicopter.
Around 10:30 p.m. on July 1, 2021, Gwinnett County Police Department received a call about a suspicious person wandering in the middle of a busy road. A Gwinnett County Police Department helicopter was sent to help locate this person. While searching for the person, the helicopter was struck multiple times by a green laser. The tactical flight officer switched to the infrared camera to identify the source. Officers on the ground went to a home in Lawrenceville, where Theodore Rowe admitted that he pointed the laser at the helicopter.
Daniel Maloney, 55, of Snellville, Georgia, Fredy Contreras, 48, of Lilburn, Georgia, Timothy Wilson, 61, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Theodore Rowe, 51, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove each defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, the Atlanta Police Department, and the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul R. Jones is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.