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MCSO asks public to help stop laser strikes

Posted: 1:29 AM, Feb 09, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-09 11:28:40-05

Policing from the skies is essential to help protect the Valley.

Whether it is hovering over the city searching for bad guys, or doing search and rescue, a pilot's sight is everything.

“If we can’t see there is only one way to go and that’s down,” said Maricopa County Sheriff's pilot Shari Garner.

And that potential is there as more people are lighting up aircraft cockpits with lasers.

“There is a possibility that I could be blinded for 30 seconds or a minute,” said MCSO pilot Steve Glennie.

Pilots with MCSO say they've experienced close calls.

“It was a quick flash, and we turned the helicopter around to see if we could see where the laser beam came from,” said Terry Heimgartner, MCSO pilot.

The first thought? “Is this going to damage my eye,” said Heimgartner.

Luckily for him, he was okay.

But pilots are serious about finding the source.

One man was arrested by a different agency after pointing a laser at both of their choppers. Officers were able to track the beam to an apartment nearby.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said lasers are just as dangerous as any other weapon.

“To me it is just as dangerous [as] shooting laser and a semi automatic. In a sense that harm can come in each instance and kill our pilots,” said Arpaio.

And could hurt people on the ground, if the chopper goes down right in the middle of a neighborhood.

If caught, you can face bother federal and state charges. A conviction could land you at least five years behind bars and fines.

The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for any tips that will lead to an arrest in people pointing lasers at aircrafts.