Disoriented Pilot Nabs Laser Loser

Third beam a charm for chopper pilot

Richmond police arrested a 41-year-old man Sunday night after he allegedly pointed a laser into the cockpit of a sheriff's helicopter several times, temporarily disorienting the pilot, Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said today.

The sheriff's helicopter was providing air cover for Richmond police, who were responding to a report of a large fight in a park, Lee said.

At about 9:20 p.m., as the helicopter hovered over the park, the cockpit suddenly lit up with a bright green light, Lee said. The light caused  the pilot to become disoriented and to lose his night vision for several minutes, Lee said.

When the helicopter was cleared from the original call, the pilot and tactical flight officer began looking for the person who had shined the light into the cockpit.

As they were searching, the laser beam hit the cockpit again, Lee said.

When the laser was shined into the cockpit a third time, the flight officer used an infrared system to locate the point of origin.

The helicopter team then directed Richmond police to the area of Dias Court and Amend Road, where officers arrested Richmond resident Mario Sanchez Gonzalez, Lee said.

Gonzalez was booked into county jail in Martinez. His bail was set at $20,000, but he has since bailed out and has been released.

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