Cops: Pointing laser at Gwinnett police helicopter lands man in jail

Daniel Clair Maloney

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Daniel Clair Maloney

When a police helicopter is feverishly searching for a wanted suspect, the bright shine of a laser pointer is the last thing a pilot wants to see.

However, that’s exactly what happened last week in Gwinnett County, and it landed a man in jail.

Daniel Clair Maloney, 52, of Loganville, faces two misdemeanors after aiming a laser pointer at the helicopter late at night Feb. 13, Gwinnett police told Channel 2 Action News.

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.”

RELATED: Johns Creek man arrested after laser pointed at police helicopter

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.

RELATED: Georgia man admits firing at police chopper because it was flying near his home

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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