Pitt student charged with pointing laser at helicopters
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A University of Pittsburgh student told police he twice pointed a laser at medical helicopters headed to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland last weekend.
James Gabriel Parisi, 20, of Elkins Park, was charged with two counts of causing or risking a catastrophe, a felony, for aiming a laser pointer toward two STAT MedEvac choppers early Sunday, police said.
Pitt police were responding to reports that a "laser beam" coming from the Cathedral of Learning had been shining on the helicopters, first at midnight and again about 3 a.m.
Such laser pointers are powerful and can cause temporary blindness in pilots, said a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which also is probing the incident.
Police confronted a group of students who were leaving the cathedral after the beam shone for a second time. Among them was Mr. Parisi, who took an officer aside, apologized and relinquished the laser pointer, police wrote in a criminal complaint.
Incidents of laser pointing have risen dramatically in recently years, according to the FAA. Locally, authorities investigated 21 cases in 2010. Including the incidents on Sunday, they have investigated 16 so far this year.
First Published July 19, 2011 1:55 pm