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Press Release

Austin Man Pleads Guilty In Laser Strike Incident

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

In Austin today, 25–year-old Gabriel Soza Ruedas, Jr., pled guilty to pointing a laser at an aircraft flying overhead announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.  Ruedas faces up to five years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine for the offense.

Appearing before United States Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin, Ruedas admitted that on February 15, 2014, he knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an Austin Police Department helicopter (Air1) that was on approach to land at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). All of this occurred after Air1 had been cleared by air traffic control to land.  Air1 delayed its landing to investigate the source of the laser.  Austin Air Traffic Control issued a general warning to all pilots in the area where the laser incident occurred, which was the flight path of arriving aircraft on short final approach to ABIA.

The laser Ruedas used was strong enough to reflect inside the cockpit of Air1 causing the pilot to turn his head and avert his eyes from the laser, distracting him from normal flight operations.

The crew of Air1 communicated to ground units from the Austin Police Department (APD) information about the source of the laser strikes, enabling APD units to identify and apprehend Ruedas.  Ruedas was found with the laser pointer in his sweatshirt pocket.

Ruedas remains in custody pending sentencing before United States District Judge Lee Yeakel.

This case resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with the Austin Police Department and the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Gregg Sofer is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Updated December 15, 2014