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Press Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Aiming Laser at San Diego Sheriff’s Helicopter

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

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 14, 2023

SAN DIEGO – Ruben Ricardo Rodriguez pleaded guilty in federal court today to aiming a laser at a San Diego Sheriff’s helicopter.

According to admissions in his plea agreement, on June 12, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower at San Diego International Airport received multiple reports of a green laser striking commercial aircraft while they were landing. The FAA notified the San Diego Sheriff’s helicopter ASTREA of the laser strikes and gave the approximate location of the origin of the laser near National City, CA.

ASTREA, an acronym for Aerial Support To Regional Enforcement Agencies, the air support unit of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, responded to the area and was struck in the cockpit by a green laser. The entire helicopter illuminated green in the sky. Video captured Rodriguez walking around a house while pointing the laser at the ground and across the street. Rodriguez then looked at ASTREA and aimed the laser at it again. The pilot said the laser strike created a bright dazzling effect on the aircraft’s glass. The laser struck the other deputy onboard in the eyes.

“Laser pointers are not toys, and aiming them at aircraft is a crime, not a prank,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Pilots could be blinded or incapacitated, causing deadly accidents.”

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious criminal act and can have potentially deadly consequences,” said FBI San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge Jamie Arnold. “The FBI and its partner agencies take allegations of interfering with the operation of an aircraft seriously and encourage anyone with information about such incidents or if they see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft to report it to the FBI.”

Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2024, at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Cynthia A. Bashant.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jaclyn Stahl, Edward Chang, and Shivanjali Sewak.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 23-CR-1467-BAS                              

Ruben Ricardo Rodriguez                                          Age: 33                                   Logan, UT


Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft – 18 U.S.C. § 39A

Maximum penalty: Five years in custody and a $250,000 fine


Federal Bureau of Investigation


Media Relations Director Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726 or    

Updated December 14, 2023

Press Release Number: CAS23-1214-Rodriguez