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Press Release

Federal Jury Convicts Omaha Man Who Pointed Laser at Aircraft

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

United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg announced that Michael A. Smith, age 30 of Omaha, was convicted today by a federal jury for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.  Smith was arrested after having been identified as the person using a laser pointer to strike Abel 1, the Omaha Police Department’s helicopter unit.  The helicopter patrol had received a report in the early morning hours of July 11, 2012, that a Southwest Airlines flight scheduled for landing in Omaha had been struck by someone using a laser pointer.  Abel 1 responded and was struck by a laser beam seconds after becoming airborne while heading in the direction provided by the Southwest pilot.  As Abel 1 approached the area of 152nd Street in Northwest Omaha, the cockpit of Abel 1 was repeatedly struck by the laser to the point of causing the pilots of Able 1 to be distracted and temporarily blinded from the refraction of the laser beam.  After being struck as many as six to seven times by the laser the pilots of Abel 1 were able to narrow the area from which the beam was coming.  They then sought ground support from a Deputy Douglas County Sheriff who was able to locate Michael A. Smith in his back yard.  Smith was actively aiming the laser pointer in the direction of the area where Abel 1 was hovering when contacted by the Deputy. 

The case was tried in front of United States District Judge John Gerrard.  Judge Gerrard set the sentencing of this matter for July 22, 2013.  Smith was ordered detained by the United States Marshal’s pending sentencing.  Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine.

In addition to the air patrol units of the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the case was also investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated January 29, 2015