A 24-year-old protester at a demonstration in San Diego against the death of George Floyd in police custody was arrested and charged for aiming the laser beam of a pointer at a police helicopter as it flew over the gathering.
Rudy Alvarez of Lemon Grove was found to have a high-powered metal laser pointer in his pocket after he was arrested on 6 June when he was spotted pointing it at the helicopter monitoring the protest.
"Aiming a laser pointer at or near an aircraft could cause distraction or blindness to a pilot and the consequences could be devastating," said US Attorney Robert Brewer. In a statement, he stressed that while the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly were essential, so were the safety of the public and law enforcement.
Pointing Laser At A Police Helicopter
According to the complaint presented in the federal court, the incident took place at a large demonstration that was passing through 500 University Avenue in Hillcrest at approximately 8:30 pm on June 6.
The crowd was being monitored by two officers from the San Diego Police Department's Air Support Unit in a marked helicopter belonging to the San Diego Police Department. The two officers reported that their aircraft was beamed by a laser by one of the demonstrators, which they claimed affected its safe operation.
Jeopardizing Safety of Police Officers
An individual who repeatedly pointed the laser at the helicopter over the course of one hour as he participated in the march in downtown San Diego was located by the officers. Based on the description provided by the officers, Alvarez was located and identified by detectives from the San Diego Police Department.
One of the detectives spotted Alvarez, who wore the same dress as described by one of the helicopter-borne officers. Following this, he was arrested without any incident. "The use of laser pointers upon law enforcement aircraft threatened the safety of the police officers protecting lawful protesters and created a potentially dangerous incident," said Omer Meisel, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI San Diego.
Hearing Scheduled In Federal Court
After being arraigned at a federal court, Alvarez's bond was set at $5,000. His next hearing has been set on 23 June.
Emphasizing the FBI's commitment to protecting the lives of the public and law enforcement officers, Meisel, added: "The FBI is focused on identifying and investigating individuals who commit crimes that threaten the safety of our community and will continue to work with our local partners to pursue federal prosecutions."