Cpl. Michele Pihera said the blinding light forced the pilot to stop looking for a wanted suspect and shift focus to the man.
“It distorts their vision,” she told Channel 2. “(The pilot) then had to quickly divert himself from the search to locate the person pointing the laser at the aircraft.”
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The news station obtained video from the helicopter’s onboard thermal camera, which appears to show Maloney walking around the backyard of a home after the incident. Officers quickly surrounded him and asked why he pointed the laser.
“He was just curious as to why a helicopter was in the air,” Pihera said, reciting the man’s response.
Maloney was arrested on counts of laser use against an aircraft and obstruction, Gwinnett jail records show. He was released on a $3,700 bond.
He did not answer Channel 2’s requests for comment.
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According to the Federal Aviation Administration's database, pilots reported 6,213 laser incidents in the U.S. last year, with 85 cases being reported in Georgia. Of those cases, 52 were near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
“They are looking at the community and the ground through a bubble ... and when you have a laser pointed at their windshield or bubble, it magnifies the red light,” Pihera said.
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