Two New Mexico residents were charged in federal court Wednesday with unlawfully aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft – a police helicopter in flight.
Michael James Saavedra, 22, of Albuquerque and Dylan James Demone, 23, of Rio Rancho appeared to face charges in a May 7 indictment. They entered not guilty pleas and were released on conditions of release pending trial.
The charges stem from an incident on Aug. 21, 2013, when Saavedra and Demone allegedly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an Albuquerque Police Department helicopter.
They face up to five years if convicted.
The case was brought under a Laser Threat Awareness Pilot Program established by the FBI in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the Federal Aviation Administration to raise awareness of aircraft laser illumination threats.
Albuquerque is one of a dozen cities in the pilot, initiated Feb. 11, 2014, where numerous laser strikes have been reported.
The program seeks to educate the public about the risks posed to aviation safety when laser devices with beams of concentrated energy are pointed at aircraft and to raise awareness about the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The act established a new criminal law that prohibits the aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft that is in flight.