A 26-year-old California man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for pointing a laser at a police helicopter that was responding to a report of his previous attack on a medevac helicopter. Defense lawyers argued Sergio Patrick Rodriquez, of Clovis in central California, was just goofing around with his kids when he shined the laser at the aircraft. Prosecutors argued he did it on purpose. “This is not a game,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner is quoted by The Associated Press as saying. “It is dangerous and it is a felony.” Rodriquez’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Jennifer Coleman, has also been convicted of felony charges and could end up in jail for five years when she is sentenced in May.
The Air Line Pilots Association applauded the stiff sentence, noting that emergency responders are more vulnerable to laser attacks because they fly at low altitudes. ALPA applauds the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The Eastern District of California U.S. District Court, and the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments for their vigilance in the investigation and conviction of this case,” the union said in a news release. “ALPA has collaborated with the FBI and local law enforcement to launch a nationwide campaign that raises awareness about the severity of illegal laser attacks on aircraft.” There were 3,960 reported incidents of laser attacks on aircraft in 2013.