United States Attorney Deborah Gilg stated in a news release that Michael A. Smith, 30, was arrested after being identified as the person using a laser pointer to strike Abel 1, the Omaha Police Department’s (OPD) helicopter unit.
The helicopter patrol received a report in the early morning hours of July 11, 2012, that a Southwest Airlines flight scheduled for landing in Omaha had been struck by someone using a laser pointer.
Abel 1 responded and was struck by a laser beam seconds after becoming airborne. As the helicopter approached the area of 152nd Street in Northwest Omaha, the cockpit was repeatedly struck by a laser, to the point of causing the pilots to be distracted and “temporarily blinded” by the laser beam.
After being struck as many as six to seven times, the pilots were able to determine the area from which the laser originated.
A Douglas County Deputy responded to the area, where he found Smith in his back yard, aiming the laser in the direction of the helicopter.
Smith will be sentenced in July, and faces up to five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.