ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A laser pointer may put two Albuquerque men in federal prison after they messed with the wrong helicopter.
The suspects appeared in Albuquerque federal court Wednesday, accused of trying to blind those on board the Albuquerque Police Department’s helicopter.
Back in February, the Feds launched a national advertising campaign as part of a crackdown on people who shine laser pointers at airplanes and helicopters.
Now, two Albuquerque men in their twenties could pay big time for what they thought was harmless.
Michael Saavedra and Dylan Demone were both arraigned on federal charges Thursday of aiming a laser pointed at an aircraft. Both declined to speak to KRQE News 13, with Demone stating, “no comment, hi mom.”
The Feds aren’t laughing though and they’re continuing to pursue the federal charges, which are a felony.
Saavedra and Demone are accused of shining a laser light inside the cockpit of APD’s Air One helicopter.
According to a police report, APD officers were flying a routine night patrol over northwest Albuquerque last August when their cockpit was lit up.
The report says a green laser hit the cockpit window around four times, shining for several seconds each time. The light was coming from the parking lot of a Wal-Mart off Coors Bypass near Cottonwood Mall.
According to the report, officers then used their infrared camera on the helicopter and spotted saw a group of people shining the light from the side of the building.
Patrol officers on the ground then raced to the scene and found a group of Wal-Mart employees including Saavedra and Demone.
According to the report, an officer then interviewed Michael Saavedra. The report states, “Michael Saavedra admitted to having the laser and that he had pointed it at the helicopter.” The FBI then took over the investigation.
Saavedra and Demone didn’t say anything in court, but News 13 spoke with their public defender after the arraignment. He said he hadn’t seen all the facts in the case but believes this may be a case of two men doing something they didn’t even know was wrong.
The police report supports that claim saying, “Mr. Saavedra did not intend to harm anyone, nor was he aware it was illegal.”
Saavedra and Demone pleaded “not guilty” to the charges on Wednesday. If convicted, the two could face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
The feds say laser shining at aircraft is a growing problem in Albuquerque. Last year, 27 reports were made near the Sunport alone. That’s double the number from 2012.