SOLANO COUNTY (CBS13) — A man who used a laser to target a CHP pilot repeatedly mid-flight near Vacaville now faces felony charges.
Deputies say 33-year-old Christopher Larsen struck the pilot in the eye, causing temporary blindness. The Solano County Sheriff’s Office is investigating other reports of similar laser attacks over the last month, but it’s not clear if they are all connected to Larsen.
At the time of the attack, which was all caught on camera, pilot Jan Sears was flying over the Vacaville area, returning to Napa after responding to another call on Monday night.
“So it’s pitch black and we’re flying and all of the sudden it’s like the sun just came out,” said Sears. “It took me a minute to get my bearings and then we started going to work because that’s what we do.”
Cameras quickly zeroed in on the source of the beam. Officers in the air worked closely with Solano County deputies. The suspect was quickly surrounded and arrested after leading police straight to his location.
“We turned away from it as if we weren’t going to look for the guy and the guy kept pointing the laser at us repeatedly,” Sears said.
Sears said he was already in autopilot mode, which prevented him from losing control of the plane. He was struck in the left eye by a blue laser, something his safety equipment is not designed to protect him from.
“He’s using a laser that’s illegal, much more expensive and highly powerful,” Sears said.
Larsen faces state and possibly federal felony charges for interfering with CHP air operations. Sears has been a pilot with CHP for 12 years and says laser attacks like this are on the rise.
“In a week we are lased once maybe twice, sometimes we catch them, sometimes we don’t,” he said.
He asks that people “don’t do it, don’t even think about doing it.”