Officers arrest man pointing laser at Phoenix police chopper - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Officers arrest man pointing laser at Phoenix police chopper

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Antonio Rodriguez Antonio Rodriguez
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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A man has been arrested for shining a laser at the Phoenix police helicopter - the second laser incident in Phoenix in the past two weeks.

The chopper was flying over the area of 48th Street and Thomas Road about 11:10 p.m. Tuesday and two officers on board said a bright green light was shining from an apartment complex below.

Officers on the ground found Antonio Rodriguez, who told them he was sorry and didn't know he couldn't point a laser at an aircraft.

He said he was just trying to test the range of the laser.

Antonio Rodriguez, 21, was arrested on two counts of felony endangerment and booked into jail.

There are 28 people, most of whom are pilots, working for the Phoenix Police Air Support Unit. They report frequent instances of being attacked with lasers in the cockpit.

"Someone in the aircraft is probably getting hit every other night. Sometimes twice a night," said Officer Mathew Bolin. Bolin has been with the unit for the past four years.

He said he and his fellow officer pilots can spot a laser beam from a pointer as far away as South Mountain from downtown Phoenix. Bolin said being hit with a laser beam in the cockpit is just as dangerous as someone firing a weapon at the helicopter.

"The whole cockpit will light up almost instantaneously. In that five to ten seconds we're being lasered, its flashing in and out," Bolin said.

The Air Support Unit is often dispatched to Sky Harbor and other valley airports to bait suspects who have targeted commercial and other private aircraft.

On Sept. 1, four people were arrested after the Phoenix police helicopter was hit with a red laser.

Phoenix police spokesman Officer James Holmes said the helicopter crew was able to direct officers on the ground to a midtown apartment complex where police found a handgun with a laser attachment.

Police said they believe Peter Ospitale, 28, and Paul Word, 31, pointed a gun with a laser sight at the chopper, which temporarily obstructed the vision of the pilot and observer. They're accused of endangerment.

Mary Grace and Marci Gomez, both 28, are accused of interfering with officers' investigation at the apartment where the incident happened, near Seventh Street and Osborn Road.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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