SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man accused of aiming a laser pointer at a San Diego police helicopter during a summer protest was arraigned in federal court Tuesday.
Stephen Glenn McLeod, 38, of San Diego, is accused of directing the laser at an San Diego Police Department chopper multiple times on Aug. 28. At least nine people were arrested — including two for allegedly pointing lasers at officers — in a downtown protest that day, held following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“When aimed at an aircraft, a beam of light from a handheld laser can illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding the pilots,” said Suzanne Turner, special agent in charge of FBI San Diego. “It’s a federal felony that the FBI and our law enforcement partners take very seriously.”
The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
McLeod appeared in San Diego federal court Tuesday, during which a personal appearance bond of $35,000 was set. He’s due back in court Nov. 20.
“We support everyone’s right to peacefully assemble and protest,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said. “Aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter, however, is highly dangerous and a serious violation of federal law.”
McLeod is not the first person charged locally with pointing a laser at a police helicopter during a protest.
In June, Lemon Grove resident Rudy Alvarez was also charged for allegedly shining a laser pointer beam at an SDPD chopper during a June 6 protest in Hillcrest, then pointing a laser at the aircraft several more times as he marched with protesters through downtown.
His case is slated for a motions hearing and jury trial, which could start as soon as next month.