After pleading guilty about a year ago to aiming a laser pointer at a police department helicopter, a judge on Monday sentenced a Schertz man to federal prison time.
U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra sentenced 39-year-old Justin John Shorey of Schertz to 51 months in prison followed by three years of probation, according to a written statement from the Western District of Texas United States Attorney’s Office.
“Pointing lasers at law enforcement is extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury,” U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer said. “This is particularly true when the pilots of an aircraft are involved. Today’s 51-month prison sentence demonstrates the seriousness of this offense. We will aggressively prosecute anyone who purposely points a laser at an aircraft, endangering both people in the air and those in our communities on the ground.”
Shorey pleaded guilty Nov. 20 to aiming a laser at an aircraft, admitting that he knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at a San Antonio Police Department helicopter Feb. 17, 2019, as it flew just north of Highway 90 West.
The flight team was helping search for a shooting suspect.
When the laser beam made contact with the helicopter, it hit the pilot in the eyes affecting his ability to see and read his gauges,” the statement read. “At the time, the helicopter was flying in the path of the San Antonio International Airport, and Shorey’s actions endangered both civilian flights and the public on the ground.”
The pilot and tactical officer aboard the helicopter searched for the person who aimed the laser. Shorey acknowledged aiming the laser at the helicopter once as it approached his location in the 2100 block of Hays Street in San Antonio and twice as it circled above him.
The pilot safely landed at the San Antonio International Airport. His injury from the laser kept him grounded for a week.
FBI special agents and members of the San Antonio Police Department investigated the case.
“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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said. “Losing 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. This case should serve as a warning to others who engage in this dangerous criminal activity.”
If someone is aiming a laser pointer at any aircraft, witnesses can call 9-1-1 or submit tips to tips.fbi.gov . The San Antonio FBI office also can be contacted at 210-225-6741 for any laser incidents.