WATCH ABOVE: York Regional Police released this raw footage of a suspect flashing a laser in the eyes of a police helicopter pilot.
TORONTO — A 19-year-old Vaughan man has been charged after allegedly shining a laser into the eyes of police helicopter pilots during flight.
York Regional Police said the “Air2” police helicopter was assisting officers responding to a weapons call on the ground in the Highway 7 and Pine Valley Drive area at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
While searching for a suspect from the air, the pilot and tactical flight officer were struck by a bright light from the Jenna Court area. The crew engaged in safety measures while the light continued to shine in their eyes.
The helicopter officer then switched the onboard camera system to infrared and manage to spot three men standing next to a vehicle at the end of Jenna Court.
Police said one of the men was seen pointing a handgun with a laser sight directly at the helicopter.
Emergency response officers and a canine unit responded to the suspect’s location, but as they approached the suspect fled on foot. Police said he then hopped a fence, threw the gun and attempted to hide in a wooded area nearby.
Police used search dogs to track the suspect with the assistance of the helicopter, and the suspect was arrested while trying to hide under tree cover.
After the suspect was apprehended, police located the handgun — which turned out to be a pellet gun with a laser scope mounted on it.
Nicholas Caranci, 19, has been charged with:
- Mischief Endangering Life
- Unlawfully Engage in Behavior that Endangers an Aircraft – Aeronautics Act
- Project Bright Light Source into Navigable Airspace – Canadian Aviation Regulation
Caranci is scheduled to appear in Newmarket court on Sept. 18.
Police are reminding the public of the potential harm laser pointers can cause, adding that Health Canada advises that a split-second look into a laser pointer can result in a condition called flash blindness — where the image of the flash remains in your eyes for a few seconds, then fades away.
But police said for a pilot in control of an aircraft flying over populated areas, the consequences can be serious.
“Those who aim these pointers at aircraft are putting lives in danger, not only in the aircraft but on the ground,” police said in a release.
“There is a serious potential for harm to the pilot and the prospect of a crash.”
Despite those dangers, Transport Canada says laser strikes on are the rise, jumping 43 per cent since 2012. In 2014, pilots reported 502 lasering incidents, leading to a government awareness campaign using the Twitter hashtag #NotABrightIdea.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact York Regional Police #4 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7441, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, leave an anonymous tip online at http://www.1800222tips.com, or text your tip to CRIMES (274637) starting with the word YORK.