Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Man Faces Up To 5 Years In Federal Prison For Aiming Laser Pointer At Helicopter

A device with a high-powered, green laser (Photo by FastLizard4 via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

A Boyle Heights man is in federal court this afternoon for directing his laser pointer at an L.A. County Sheriff's Dept.'s helicopter.

George Sam Elali, 31, allegedly shot his green-hued laser pointer multiple times at the aircraft that was patrolling on Nov. 17, 2013, according to a press release from the FBI. The deputies tracked down the suspect and sent out LAPD officers to arrest the man, who was found in the backyard of a house. He was named in a grand jury indictment on Feb. 14 and is scheduled to be arraigned in court today in downtown.

Elali is charged with one count of aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft, which is a felony offense. If convicted, he could face up to five years in federal prison. He could also be looking at civil penalties from the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the state charges against Elali were dropped.

What officials call "lasing" (the act of aiming laser pointers) is extremely dangerous for pilots, since they could be temporarily blinded and disoriented while flying the aircrafts, reported the L.A. Times.

Support for LAist comes from

The FBI has been cracking down on people aiming laser pointers at aircrafts since they announced their new initiative in February, according to an FBI press release. It's a two-month program to educate folks in the cities with the most lasing incidences surrounding 12 specific FBI offices through educational billboards and PSAs, reported the Times. To sweeten the incentives to get folks to come forward with information about the culprits, the FBI is offering rewards of up to $10,000.

“The risk associated with illegal and inappropriate laser illuminations is unacceptable,” Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Assn. International, told the Times. “Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public.”