A 19-year-old Charlotte man has been charged with pointing a laser at the pilot of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police helicopter Tuesday night.
The suspect, identified as Smith Hayden Brundage, was charged with two counts of using a laser device toward an aircraft, according to police.
Investigators said the incident took place shortly before 10:30 p.m. in the 4600 block of Camp Stewart Road. That is a short distance southeast of the Interstate 485 interchange with Harrisburg Road.
CMPD sent a tweet shortly before midnight, reporting that someone had pointed a green laser at the helicopter. Police said the alleged incident took place in an open field off Camp Stewart Road.
The arrest apparently was made in nearby Cabarrus County, as CMPD said it got help from the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office. Two people were detained, but only Brundage has been charged.
Brundage was charged with a state felony, which carries a prison term of up to five years. The federal charge of “interfering with the operation of an aircraft” has more serious penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
An Oak Island man was arrested in May and charged with pointing a laser device toward an aircraft, according to Brunswick County authorities. That incident also involved a helicopter, and the pilot, Jessica Ward, told WECT-TV that the light temporarily blinded her and a passenger in the cockpit.
Earlier this summer, the Charlotte office of the FBI announced a crackdown on the use of lasers to point at aircraft. The FBI said 68 laser incidents were reported in North Carolina last year and 20 through mid-May in the state. Six were in Charlotte, the FBI said.
“Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
FBI officials said statistics show that many of the laser strikes are committed by teens and adults 35-45 years old.