Two Arrested for Laser Illumination of Aircraft in Harris County

Two Arrested for Laser Illumination of Aircraft in Harris County
Leonel Vasquez and Artemio Gonzales

On February 1, 2024, deputies from Constable Mark Herman’s Office swiftly responded to a report in the 11300 block of Lodge Run Lane, where a Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Pilot had alerted authorities about the aircraft being illuminated by a laser.

Upon arrival, deputies detained two male suspects, identified as 34-year-old Leonel Vasquez and 41-year-old Artemio Gonzales. During the investigation, it was discovered that Gonzales had an active warrant for Tampering with Government Record.

Both suspects were subsequently arrested and booked into the Harris County Jail.

Vasquez faces charges related to the Illumination of Aircraft by Intense Light, while Gonzales faces charges stemming from the existing warrant. As of now, the bonds and court information for the arrested individuals have not been set.

This incident underscores the increasing concerns surrounding laser strikes on aircraft, a topic explored in partnership with AOPA and Boldmethod. Laser strikes pose significant dangers, especially during nighttime flights when pilots’ eyes are adapted to darkness.

Nighttime Hazards and Eye Adaptation: The article highlights that eyes become more sensitive to light at night, making them more susceptible to the damaging effects of laser strikes. Specifically, the eyes’ rods, responsible for light sensing in low-light conditions, become 10,000 times more sensitive than cones. However, this heightened sensitivity also increases the risk of harm from laser exposure.

Alarming Surge in Laser Incidents: FAA data reveals a concerning surge in laser incidents, with 8,549 reports from January to November 2021, compared to 6,852 in the entire year of 2020. This statistic underscores the growing threat of laser strikes, prompting the need for increased awareness and precautions.

Laser Strike Hazards: The article explains the various hazards associated with laser strikes, ranging from flash blindness to disorientation. Most incidents occur during critical flight phases such as take-off and landing, intensifying the risks for both the aircraft and its occupants.

Legal Consequences: The collaborative piece emphasizes that pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony, with penalties including fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to 5 years. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson stresses that such actions not only impact the flight crew but also endanger passengers.