U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California
(916) 554-2700
September 29, 2014

Fresno Man Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Laser Strikes on CHP Plane

FRESNO, CA—David Walter Fee, 22, of Fresno, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, for aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane, announced U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

According to court documents, the CHP airplane, Air 43, was struck up to 50 times by a powerful green laser pointer. As a result, the pilot suffered temporary blindness and Air 43 was forced to break away from a burglary in progress at a Fresno middle school. The CHP pilot reported that he gets struck by lasers almost every night and this incident was “the worst.”

The case was the product of an investigation by the FBI’s Fresno Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted this case.

“The public should be outraged by this reckless behavior that jeopardizes both air crews and the public,” said Supervisory Special Agent Jacqueline Neumann of the Sacramento FBI’s Fresno resident agency. “ The public has the power to stop this activity. If anyone witnesses aircraft laser incidents, they should report it by calling 911 immediately. The public is also encouraged to have conversations with friends and family to improve understanding of the risks and discourage reckless usage of hand-held laser devices. The threat to aircraft safety is real and the penalties for this activity can be substantial.”

According to the latest statistics from the FBI, in 2014, the FAA has received 104 reports of laser incidents involving aircraft from the Eastern District of California. Fresno leads in the number of reported incidents in our district followed by Modesto, Bakersfield, and Sacramento, in that order.

Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a laser incident, or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI field office or dial 911.

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