18 Year-Old Man Arrested After Being Indicted for Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft

Bob Hope Airport Police Cruiser. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

A North Hollywood man was taken into custody this morning after being charged in a federal indictment that alleges he pointed the beam of a laser at multiple aircraft, announced Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and André Birotte, Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.

Adam Gardenhire,18, was arrested this morning at his North Hollywood residence without incident. Gardenhire was named in a two-count indictment filed yesterday in United States District Court in Los Angeles that alleges he pointed the beam of a laser at a private plane and a police helicopter.

The federal statute used to charge Gardenhire is part of new legislation recently signed into law by President Obama that makes it a federal crime to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft. The indictment marks the second time a violation of the new statute has been charged in the United States, and the first time one has been charged on the West Coast.

According to the indictment, Gardenhire deliberately aimed a commercial-grade green laser at multiple aircraft on the evening of March 29, 2012. The laser attack was initially reported by a pilot operating a privately owned Cessna Citation. The indictment further alleges that the beam of Gardenhire’s laser was pointed at a helicopter operated by a pilot with the Pasadena Police Department who was responding to the report of the laser attack on the Cessna. Air and ground investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Pasadena Police Department identified Gardenhire as a suspect later that evening, and Gardenhire was taken into custody on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. Gardenhire subsequently posted bail and was released from local custody while the joint investigation continued.

Reports of laser attacks have increased dramatically in recent years as laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. In addition, technology has advanced the effectiveness of laser devices, with a resulting increase in the potential safety hazards for pilots operating aircraft and their passengers and crew. Such safety hazards include temporary distraction and impaired vision, which is particularly dangerous during the critical takeoff or landing phase of flight. In addition, pilots have reported the need to abort landings or relinquish control of the aircraft to another pilot as a result of laser attacks. California consistently leads the nation in reports of laser attacks. Over 3,500 laser attacks were reported in 2011.

Gardenhire is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge this afternoon in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.

If convicted of both charges in the indictment, Gardenhire faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Gardenhire is also subject to civil penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration.

This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Pasadena Police Department, the Burbank Police Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FBI.

Gardenhire is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.