FBI San Antonio
Special Agent Michelle Lee
(210) 650-6333
October 23, 2020

U.S. and Mexican Law Enforcement Conduct Operations to Deter Lasing of Aircraft Along the U.S. – Mexico Border

SAN ANTONIO, TX—This week, law enforcement authorities in the United States and Mexico participated in coordinated law enforcement operations seeking to identify individuals lasing aircraft along the U.S.-Mexico border from Del Rio, Texas/Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila to Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras.

During multiple evening operations over a three-day period, aircraft operated by the Texas National Guard flying near Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas, were repeatedly hit by laser pointers from the ground. On October 20, 2020, Mexican law enforcement, in coordination with U.S. law enforcement, determined one of the laser beams originated from Ciudad Acuña. Thereafter, Fiscalia Coahuila Criminal Investigative Agency located two individuals at a residence in Ciudad Acuña and arrested them for allegedly lasing the aircraft.

Participants in the operations include FBI San Antonio, Del Rio Resident Agency Office; FBI Legat Mexico; Fiscalia Coahuila Criminal Investigative Agency; Texas National Guard; and the U.S. Border Patrol-Del Rio Sector, with assistance from U.S. Air Force, 47th Flying Training Wing, Laughlin Air Force Base and Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 410.

For nearly a year, pilots flying aircraft along the U.S.-Mexico border, from Del Rio/Ciudad Acuña, to Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras, reported multiple lasing incidents where their aircraft were hit by laser pointers from the ground. Many pilots reported being temporarily blinded by the laser beams and others advised they were forced to take evasive maneuvers to prevent the lasers from obstructing their vision.

When aimed at an aircraft, the powerful beam of light from a hand-held laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. Lasing an aircraft represents a significant public safety threat, which endangers pilots, aircrew, passengers, and individuals on the ground, should an aircraft crash or require an emergency landing. Laser beams also have the potential to cause long-lasting damage to pilots' vision.

“Law enforcement operations executed this week demonstrated the participants’ shared commitment to aviation safety along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of FBI San Antonio.

“Illegal acts like this endanger lives and will not be tolerated,” said Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Austin L. Skero of U.S. Border Patrol. “Working with our state, local, federal, and international partners, we are committed to tracking down and apprehending criminals like these to safeguard our communities.”

Knowingly pointing the beam of a laser at an aircraft is a violation of federal law in the United States. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five-years’ imprisonment. Lasing an aircraft is also prohibited in Mexico. If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI office or police department.