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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Federal Jury Convicts Man for Pointing Laser at San Diego Police Helicopter

Assistant U. S. Attorneys John Parmley (619) 546-7957 and Jonathan Shapiro (619) 546-8225

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – November 19, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Rudy Alvarez of Lemon Grove was convicted by a federal jury late yesterday for knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a San Diego Police helicopter as the aircraft flew over a protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

After a two-day trial, the jury deliberated for 2.5 hours before rendering its verdict. Alvarez is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22 at 9 a.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.

“This is a very important verdict,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “This kind of crime could have a disastrous impact if a pilot’s sight is compromised. We support the Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly, but the rule of law must be respected. It’s there for a reason – to protect the public and law enforcement from danger.” Brewer praised prosecutors John Parmley and Jonathan Shapiro as well as San Diego police officers and detectives and agents from the FBI for their diligence in seeking justice.

“The guilty verdict returned in this case is a reminder that using a laser pointer as a weapon against aircraft is a federal crime and offenders will face justice,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.  “The FBI will continue to protect the public and pilots from the dangerous actions of those intentionally using lasers pointers to cause harm.”

The incident occurred at a large demonstration that passed through the area of 500 University Avenue in San Diego on June 4 at 8:30 p.m. Two officers from the San Diego Police Department’s Air Support Unit were monitoring the crowd in a marked San Diego Police Department helicopter. The officers reported that one of the demonstrators in the crowd was shining a laser at their aircraft that threatened their ability to safely operate the helicopter.

The San Diego police officers were able to locate the man who pointed the laser at the helicopter multiple times over the course of an hour as he marched with the protestors in downtown San Diego.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 20cr1809                                           

Rudy Alvarez                                                  Age: 25                       Lemon Grove

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft – Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A

Maximum penalty: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine

AGENCIES

San Diego Police Department

Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

Press Release Number: 
CAS20-1119-Alvarez
Updated November 19, 2020