Police: Man Shines Laser at CHP Helicopter

Officers arrest man on suspicion of incapacitating pilot

A man who sells commercial lasers for a living has been arrested in El Cerrito, on suspicion of shining one of his laser pointers at a CHP helicopter, momentarily incapacitating the pilot, police said Monday.

El Cerrito Police commander Mike Regan said Brian Butler, 50, was arrested and has been charged with discharging a laser at an aircraft -- a potential felony.

The CHP helicopter had been helping in the search for burglar who had fled into the woulds behind the city recycling yard on Schmidt Lane, Regan said.

El Cerrito police had asked the CHP for the helicopter at about 2:30 a.m. Monday. Officers had staked out the recycling yard for several nights because of copper thefts, Regan said.

It turned out that two men may have been involved in the copper wire thefts. One of them was captured while the other fled, Regan said.

The CHP helicopter, equipped with infrared equipment, looped around the crime scene at about 1,000 feet looking for the burglar, regan said.

The pilot said that a green laser struck his cockpit about 2:50 a.m., and the laser shone in his face, forcing the helicopter to stop its search for 10 to 15 minutes and for authorities both in the air and on the ground to look for the laser's source.

Three officers were aboard. Nobody was hurt.

The officers in the helicopter said they spotted a man standing in a driveway near the corner of Seaview Drive.

Police went to that location, found three men inside, and contacted commercial laser salesman Butler, who eventually produced a green laser pointer.

Police booked Butler into County Jail in Martinez, regan said.

There could be a delaying and obstructing charge filed against Butler in relation to the stopped search for the burglar, Regan said.
Butler, a current probationer, was also wanted on suspicion of auto theft in Colorado, Regan said.
The laser incident is the second to have occurred in the Bay Area since Friday.

Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies and FBI agents said Friday that they arrested a 39-year-old Campbell man on suspicion of shining his green laser at law enforcement flight crews at least 10 times over the past three years.

Michael Weeker was arrested Monday about 7:30 p.m. near his home at Gale and Marathon drives on suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft.

The counts carry a maximum penalty of eight years in state prison, according to Sgt. Don Morrissey, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

Exposure to green laser can cause permanent damage to the eye,  even blindness, Morrissey said.

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