2 charged with pointing laser at Nashville police helicopter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Two men were arrested after they reportedly pointed a laser at pilots inside a Metro Nashville Police Department helicopter and temporarily blinded them.

The helicopter was flying over the Madison area Wednesday to help detectives. According to an arrest warrant, the aircraft was flying at 2,000 feet at 70 knots with two pilots and a tactical officer on board when a green laser was shined into the cockpit.

The laser was strong enough to reach more than a mile and a half into the sky and temporarily blind the pilots, Metro police reported.

laser incident
(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

The tactical officer was able to pinpoint the location the laser was coming from and reportedly saw 19-year-old Hector Otoniel get into a sedan and it drove away.

Metro police reported as the sedan was traveling, Otoniel again pointed the laser at the helicopter, completely blinding the pilots and tactical officer.

The helicopter monitored the vehicle until it stopped at an apartment complex on Berkley Drive.

Otoniel was seen was seen getting out of the sedan and throwing the laser into a bush, according to an arrest warrant. Officers on the ground then approached the vehicle, where Otoniel allegedly admitted to using the laser. He reportedly told officers he threw the laser into the bush because he was scared. Jamale Strong, 25, was also charged in a laser incident along with Otoniel.

In a separate incident on the same night, the helicopter was flying over East Nashville when it was hit by a laser at least three separate times, according to Metro police. The pilots and tactical officer were able to use the helicopter’s camera system to identify Strong as the person shining the laser at the aircraft from an apartment on Dellway Villa Drive.

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Detectives on the ground drove to the apartment and witnessed Strong still using the laser, according to an affidavit.

Strong was taken into custody and told it was for pointing the laser at the helicopter, which is illegal and very dangerous. Strong reportedly sighed and told the officers “Ohhh, I didn’t know.”

Otoniel and Strong were both booked into the Metro jail and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Their bonds were set at $30,000 each.


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