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Man accused of pointing laser at aircraft

An airplane lands over W. Empire Avenue
An airplane lands over W. Empire Avenue at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on Tuesday, April 25, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

BURBANK — A 30-year-old Burbank man was arrested Sunday night after he allegedly pointed a laser at a Glendale police helicopter crew as they were preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport.

Rafael Torosyan was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft, Burbank Police Officer Cindy Guillen said.

He allegedly flashed the laser at the Glendale air crew four times before he was followed and eventually arrested, police said.

The air crew had just completed a patrol of the skies and were returning to the airport about 10 p.m. when a green light suddenly lit up the helicopter’s cockpit, police said.


The crew quickly notified the airport of the laser incident and began searching for the light source, he said.

But as they turned the aircraft around to investigate the incident, they were struck again, police said.

“That essentially destroys your night vision,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson of the Joint Air Support Unit.

They tried not to look directly into the light as they navigated the skies, and used a thermal-imaging camera to find the laser pointing suspect, he said.


After finding Torosyan and a dog at a park, police followed them to an apartment building at Providencia Avenue and Kenneth Road in Burbank, Robertson said.

Torosyan appeared to be hiding in an entryway and had let go of his dog’s leash, which Robertson said would make him more difficult to detect on thermal imaging.

The air crew turned the spotlight on Torosyan as Burbank police arrived to the neighborhood and arrested him.

Burbank officers found a laser-pointing device in Torosyan’s pants pocket, Guillen said.

The airport has reported six laser pointing incidents so far this year, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. Another 37 laser-pointing incidents were reported last year, he added.

The Los Angeles region has the most laser-pointing incidents involving aircraft nationwide, Gregor said.

“The bad news is that we are seeing more — more every year since 2005,” he said.

Still, police have also become more sophisticated in developing strategies to locate laser-pointing suspects, Gregor said.


The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office had not filed charges against Torosyan as of Tuesday afternoon.