Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Westchester Man Accused of Pointing Laser at Police Helicopter, Blinding Pilot

The FBI is investigating the increasing number of laser incidents targeting aircraft in the New York metro area

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    A man accused of pointing a green laser at a Westchester County police helicopter during a Fourth of July celebration in Valhalla now faces federal criminal charges.

    The FBI said Philip Avery Putter twice pointed a powerful green laser at the Westchester County police helicopter, temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot as they operated the aircraft above a crowd of about 10,000 people.

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    Reports of laser attacks on everything from commercial jetliners to helicopters are at epidemic levels, averaging ten a day across the U.S. and once a day at tri-state airports, authorities say. Brian Thompson explains what's being done to stop laser attacks. (Published Thursday, Sep 20, 2012)

    The pilots radioed police on the ground, who found Putter with the laser, prosecutors said. Putter allegedly asked a police sergeant on the scene if he could have his laser back because it’s “expensive.”

    The charges against Putter come as authorities say there has been an increase in cases of lasers pointed at aircraft, especially commercial airliners flying in and out of New York City’s major airports.  

    In the criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, there is no allegation that Putter pointed his laser at any aircraft other than the police helicopter.

    Putter allegedly pointed the laser at the police chopper as it was providing security for the 2013 Kensico Dam Fireworks show. The pilot told the FBI that he was hit twice by the laser as he was looking down on the crowd. The pilot was wearing night vision goggles and reported the flash temporarily affected his vision as well.

    Putter was expected to appear in federal court in White Plains Thursday. Several calls to his home numbers were not answered.  

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