Man accused of pointing a laser at planes in Tennessee: feds

A Mississippi man accused of pointing a laser at planes flying into Tennessee could get prison time, officials said.

The 52-year-old pleaded guilty to aiming the laser pointer at aircraft over a period of several months on Tuesday, Dec. 14, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee said in a news release Thursday, Dec. 16. He could now be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison.

On July 15, Federal Aviation Administration agents notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s field office in Memphis that there were reports of airplanes being “struck in the cockpit and cabin by a green laser” as they were flying into the Memphis airport, according to the news release.

Between Jan. 1 and July 15, airplanes were hit 49 times by the green laser, which was coming from the Hardeman County, Tennessee and Benton County, Mississippi area, feds said. Most of the planes hit were FedEx airplanes.

On July 16, agents were investigating in Saulsbury, Tennessee, as reports were coming in that airplanes in the area were being hit by the laser, feds said. The agents found a “general originating location” but the “lasering ceased” before they pinpointed a specific area from where it was coming.

They then investigated the same area again on Aug. 11 using a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation aircraft equipped with a surveillance camera, feds said. As they flew over the Hardeman County, Tennessee, area, they “almost immediately began reporting laser strikes originating from the south and southwest of their position.”

Surveillance equipment “pinpointed an individual standing in front of a residence located at the intersection of Whippoorwill Road and Hamer Road in Benton County, Mississippi,” which is near the Tennessee state line, feds said.

When agents arrived at the home, they found a man walking around the house while “lasering the plane,” feds said. They also found a green laser pointer in an outdoor trashcan, and the man told law enforcement he had been “intentionally striking planes flying near his residence with the green laser for several months.”

The man’s sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2022. Federal officials said he “faces up to five years in federal prison to be followed by three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine.”

This story was originally published December 19, 2021 12:30 PM.

Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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