A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) helicopter was struck by a laser beam while flying over protesters in Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday. The beam emanated from Windsor, Ontario, and an unidentified subject was soon apprehended by Windsor police.
The incident occurred around 10 p.m. local time when crew onboard an AS-350 helicopter detected a green laser targeting their aircraft. The crew was conducting operations over George Floyd protests near the Renaissance Center in Detroit, according to a CBP press release.
After detecting the laser, CBP states the helicopter crew positioned the camera system on the laser's point of origin, a subject in Windsor, Ontario. The crew contacted the Windsor Ontario Control Tower and reported the perpetrator's exact location, which was then relayed to Windsor Police. The crew maneuvered the helicopter along the Detroit River and maintained a visual on the subject. Windsor Police located the subject and took the suspect into custody.
"The Windsor Control Tower acted as a continuous relay to the police as the aircrew vectored them to the subject’s position which was critical to making this apprehension," said AMO Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch Director Marc Sledge. "I am very thankful that our pilots were not injured in this incident and that our Canadian counterparts were there to assist us at a moment’s notice."
CBP says lasers pose serious risks to pilots and innocent people on the ground. Pilots can suffer flash blindness, other sudden vision problems and permanent vision damage after laser exposure. While it is legal to own a hand-held laser, it is a federal crime to shine such a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. A person convicted of interfering with an aircraft can face a $250,000 fine and up to 20 years behind bars.