On Monday evening, several pilots leaving from and returning to LaGuardia Airport were temporarily blinded by a green laser beam. The Federal Aviation Administration told the New York Police Department about the eye injuries, and two officers set off in a helicopter, hoping to use themselves as bait and trick the owner of the laser into shining the laser and showing them exactly where he or she lived. The plan worked, and was very painful.
Detective Richard Mardarello told the New York Post, “Unfortunately, it hit both of us right in the eye. You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”
Mardarello and his partner, Royston Charles, traced the beam to the house where 36-year-old florist Frank Egan lives with his mother in the Bronx. They found a laser, labeled “Laser 303,” and Egan admitted that the laser was his, and he had used it that night. According to the New York Times, Egan was arrested and charged with “two counts of assault on a police officer, three counts of felony assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.” Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal felony, which can lead to up to five years in prison. However, Egan’s attorney says that his client denies the charges, and that he was asleep at the time of the crime.
The FBI began offering rewards for information leading to the arrest of the ever increasing number of people shining lasers at airplanes last year. In 2013, there was an average of nearly 11 reported laser strikes every day.
As with most crime stories, the best quotes in articles summing up this situation come from random locals asked to have opinions on the matter. The New York Times talked to a non-laser-pointer-owning twentysomething who said, “Honestly, I’ve gotten drunk a couple times and thought about doing it myself." A man who owns a local deli told the New York Daily News, "He’s a nice guy, I don’t understand how he has this problem."
Egan’s mother did not have much to tell reporters except, “My son’s a good kid and that’s it.”