Portland Man Sentenced for Pointing Laser at News Helicopter
PORTLAND, Ore. – Fernando Garces, 25, of Portland, was sentenced today in federal court to two years of probation for aiming a laser pointer at a news helicopter.
According to court documents, on the evening of November 9, 2016, Garces was driving on the Burnside Bridge in Portland during a protest. The bridge was full of pedestrians and cars were moving slowly as a result. A KGW news helicopter was flying over the bridge to report on the protest. A KGW photographer was in the back of the helicopter operating a camera.
While the pilot was hovering over the bridge, Garces pointed a high-powered laser beam directly at the helicopter. The intense blue laser light illuminated the helicopter cockpit. The light temporarily blinded both the pilot and the photographer. The pilot made several attempts to maneuver the helicopter to a position where it would not be hit by the laser. The laser illumination lasted approximately one minute before the pilot was able to regain enough vision to safely fly the helicopter, read controls in the cockpit and take evasive action.
This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Hannah Horsley, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.