Third man arrested for allegedly flashing laser at helicopter

A 19-year-old Glendale man was arrested late Friday after he allegedly flashed a green laser device at a police helicopter, officials said.

Narek Karapetyan was taken into custody about 11:15 p.m. at Glenwood Road and School Street after shining the laser twice at a Glendale and Burbank police aircrew, Sgt. Steve Robertson, the pilot, said.

The arrest is the second of its kind this month in Glendale, in addition to a similar incident in Burbank.

The FAA has logged 11 laser-pointing incidents for aircraft at or near Bob Hope Airport so far this year, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Shining a high-powered laser at an aircraft can damage a pilot’s eyes or cause temporary blindness. Local police aircrews have stepped up public education and tracking of suspects in response to the growing trend.

“I am not aware of any other police agency as successful as Glendale and Burbank in catching as many people who point lasers at an aircraft,” Gregor said.

In the incident Friday night, Robertson was piloting the aircraft about 9:15 p.m. in skies above Glenoaks Boulevard when the green laser struck his eyes. His corneas were severely burned in a similar incident 15 years ago.

He and a Burbank police co-pilot pinpointed the laser near Hoover High School. They checked the area, but couldn’t find anyone, so continued on their patrol.

About 45 minutes later, they were preparing to land when the Burbank officer was hit again by the laser, Robertson said.

They switched to infrared equipment and flew to the area around Hoover High School, where he said they spotted a group of men next to a car.

Robertson immediately called for patrol cars to respond to the area, where they arrested Karapetyan, who allegedly was seen hiding the laser behind a nearby tree.

Karapetyan told police that he flashed the laser, but denied pointing it directly at the aircrew, Robertson said.

If convicted, Karapetyan could face stiff civil penalties.

The FAA announced earlier this month that laser-pointing suspects could be fined $11,000.

The Los Angeles region has the highest number of laser-pointing incidents in the nation, according to the FAA.

Laser-pointing incidents nearly doubled from 1,527 in 2009 to 2,836 in 2010.


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