U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Texas
(210) 384-7100
July 31, 2014

Federal Jury Convicts El Paso Man in Laser Strike Incident

El Paso resident Don Ray Dorsett, age 28, faces up to five years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of pointing a laser at an aircraft flying overhead announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

In February 2012, President Barrack Obama signed the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012” and added a new provision that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Yesterday afternoon, jurors convicted Dorsett of violating that provision (Title 18 United States Code Section 39A—Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft). Evidence presented during trial revealed that on January 4, 2014, Dorsett knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at a helicopter flying overhead. The aircraft belonged to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 2, 2014, before United States District Judge David C. Guaderrama in El Paso.

This indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the El Paso Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Stanley Serwatka is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Reported incidents of laser strikes are on the rise. Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics reflect a more than 1,100% increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers. In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported—an average of almost 11 incidents per day.

Earlier this year, the FBI announced the inception of the Laser Threat Awareness Campaign, a nationwide effort led by the FBI in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) and the FAA to raise awareness of aircraft laser illumination threats. If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the El Paso FBI at 915-832-5000. If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the nearest local law enforcement agency immediately by dialing 911. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

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