SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — On a routine patrol over Santa Ana Monday night suddenly flashes of green light filled the cockpit of the Orange County Sheriff’s helicopter.
As KCAL9/CBS2’s Stacey Butler reports, a suspect who pointed a laser at helicopter pilots Carlo Diganci and Jeff Van Es was arrested.
Santa Ana police arrested 38-year-old Gustavo Lopez, who was playing with his wife and two children in Carl Thornton Park.
“That bright green flash initially draws your attention to it, and it takes your brain a second to say ‘no that’s a laser. Don’t look at it directly in the eye,’ ” says Van Es. “I looked to the right and I got hit in the face twice.”
With a night vision camera, they hovered over Lopez.
“He was sitting down with his children and he illuminated us several more times,” says Diganci.
Police say Lopez and his wife denied having the laser.
“It looks like he may have seen a police officer and then he turns around, takes something out of his pocket and hides it,” says Diganci. “And we found it right where he was sitting. What kind of example are you setting for your children?”
The pilots are lucky. They were OK and managed to safely fly the helicopter. The last time a green laser was pointed at Van Es he temporarily lost his sight and was out for a month. He now has permanent damage.
“The laser might only hit you for a few seconds, but the effects may last minutes or in my case days afterwards,” says Van Es.
Police say that Lopez could have blinded the pilots. He now faces a federal felony of up to 10 years in prison.