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Press Release

Henderson, Nev. Man Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Aiming Laser Pointer At Police Helicopter

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

       LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A Henderson, Nev. man was sentenced today to two years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) helicopter on six occasions earlier this year, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada. 

            James David Zipf, 30, pleaded guilty in June to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Miranda M. Du.  Zipf was permitted to self-report to federal prison by December 30, and must also serve three years of supervised release and undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Zipf admitted that just after midnight on Jan. 30, 2014, he aimed a blue laser four times at the LVMPD helicopter from the second story window of the Green Valley neighborhood house where he lived.  Zipf also admitted that on Feb. 3, 2014, at about 9:00 p.m., he pointed the blue laser light two times at a LVMPD helicopter causing one of the flight officers to experience a severe headache. Zipf was convicted in 2011 in Phoenix, Ariz. of pointing a similar blue laser at a police helicopter there. 

            “In 2012, it became a federal felony offense to knowingly target an aircraft with a laser,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “This activity is extremely dangerous, and can disorient and temporarily blind a pilot.  If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI field office or dial 911.”

  Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics reflect a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers.  In 2013, there were 3,960 laser illumination incidents reported by pilots to the FAA. This is an average of 10.8 incidents every night.

The case was investigated by the FBI and LVMPD, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Yang.   

Updated January 29, 2015