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LAPD Pilot Could Smell Jet Fuel, See It On The Windshield

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The pilot of the Los Angeles Police Department helicopter hit with gunfire Sunday in Van Nuys knew jet fuel was pouring out from the bullet hole because he could smell it and see it on the windshield of the craft, reports the L.A. Times.

According to the police Air Support Division, the pilot "heard a loud thump outside the aircraft and took evasive action," Officials have not released the names of the pilot and observer aboard the A-Star American-Eurocopter AS350 B2, as they are considered witnesses in "a criminal investigation into the attempted murder of police officers," reports the L.A. Times.

18-year-old Danny Lopez was arrested after officers reportedly found him "aiming a rifle skyward in the 15700 block of Saticoy Street about 6 a.m.," notes the L.A. Times. While initially there was speculation of additional involvement, officials said Monday that "no other suspect is being sought."

Said Air Support Division officers:

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...[P]olice have been targeted by lasers, but "it's been a long time" since bullets were fired at the department's 19 helicopters, said Lt. Phil Smith of the helicopter unit. "Gunfire directed at us, that's a surprise," Smith said. Helicopter crews know "there's a potential for it ending badly" when a craft is struck by bullets.

Though no change in protocol is expected for police helicopters circling about 500 to 800 feet above crime scenes, Smith remarked that the craft "may have to go a little higher and farther out" in the future, notes the L.A. Times.

Police try to keep at least two helicopters airborne at all times, and crews practice emergency auto-rotation landings every 90 days. Sunday's landing was done under full power, they said.