The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York has brought charges against a Bronx man who allegedly used a laser pointer to blind pilots of commercial airlines coming to and from LaGuardia Airport in Queens.
But the story of how the police eventually nabbed the suspect, Elehecer Balaguer, gets even better.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Balaguer used a laser pointer from his Bronx apartment to temporarily blind three pilots at LaGuardia on March 9. After the pilots complained of a "bright green beam" that was being pointed at them, LaGuardia was forced to change its runway directions to give pilots a safer route to and from the airport.
The pilots said the beam appeared to originate from somewhere in the Bronx. A New York Police Department helicopter was sent to scout out the area.
"While the NYPD helicopter was in that area, a green beam was directed into the cockpit of the NYPD helicopter, causing both of the pilots also to lose sight temporarily," the U.S. Attorney's office said. "The pilots on board the NYPD helicopter observed that the laser beam appeared to originate from a particular second floor apartment of a building in the Bronx."
When police found Balaguer's apartment, they found a laser pointer inside — it was sitting on the top of a refrigerator near the window. The U.S. Attorney's office noted that written right on the laser pointer was a warning: "DANGER — LASER RADIATION — AVOID DIRECT EYE EXPOSURE."
"When questioned the night of March 9, 2015, Balaguer admitted that he owned the laser pointer, but denied knowing who pointed the laser pointer at passing airplanes," it added. According to the New York Times, Balaguer went further by trying to say his housemate, a man named Frank Egan, was the guilty party.
But Balaguer finally confessed to the crime last week. "It was just like a kid thing," he said in court. "It was a stupid thing to do."
"On March 13, 2015, Balaguer admitted to law enforcement that he shined the beam of the laser pointer at an airplane on March 9, 2015," the U.S. Attorney said. "Balaguer further admitted to lying to law enforcement when he was interviewed by NYPD officers on March 9, 2015."
The charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.