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Laser-Pointing at Aircraft Leads to Indictment

DENVER – Eric Joseph Gow, 21, of Colorado Springs, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday, April 19th, 2016, on three counts of repeatedly pointing high intensity lasers into aircraft cockpits during critical stages of flight at the Colorado Springs Airport. Following his arrest, Gow made his initial appearance before District Court Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe on April 21st, 2016. Gow was released on bond.

Aviation safety experts state that lasers can temporarily blind and disorient pilots when the aircraft is most vulnerable during takeoffs and landings, and possibly cause a major mishap. Some pilots suffer permanent eye damage from laser strikes.

The problem of people aiming lasers at aircraft is a serious national problem. In all of 2015, the Colorado Springs airport reported 31 laser strikes (in some reports, aircraft were hit multiple times,) and Denver International Airport reported 138 strikes. Across the nation last year, pilots reported 7,347 laser strikes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Pointing a laser at aircraft is not a video game – it’s a federal crime,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Not only does the laser strike create the possibility of an aviation disaster, it can permanently injure the eyesight of the pilots affected. If you do this, we will find you and prosecute you for the safety of the community.”

“Pointing lasers at aircraft is not only a felony offense but also needlessly endangers the lives of pilots and passengers on these aircraft,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Thomas Ravenelle. “The FBI will continue to investigate with our local partners and the USAO when lasers are used to interfere with aircraft, and bring the offenders to justice.”

Gow was charged with three counts of aiming a laser at an aircraft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Colorado Springs Police Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason St. Julien.

The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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