A second suspect has been charged for aiming a laser beam at commercial and law enforcement aircraft from a Coddington Avenue apartment on Monday, March 9.
Bronxite Frank Egan was initially arrested and charged with the crime, but at his appearance before a judge on Friday, March 13, Elehecer Balaguer came forward and claimed responsibility for the crime, said a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorneys’s office.
“This is a serious matter. This office has been investigating this crime along with representatives of the Federal government and has decided to defer the matter to the authorities in the Southern District of New York,” read a statement from D.A. Robert Johnson. “It is our belief that, by doing so, we can achieve the best outcome for this prosecution.”
A news release from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney on Monday, March 16 announced the charge brought against Balaguer in the case.
According to the release, on March 9, three pilots of commercial airplanes arriving at or departing from LaGuardia Airport in Queens were stuck in the eyes with a bright green beam, causing two of the pilots to be briefly blinded.
Each of the pilots who was struck with the green beam noticed that the beam appeared to originate from the Bronx.
Officers from the NYPD Aviation Unit responded to the pilots’ complaints by flying in a helicopter near the location where the airplanes had been struck with a beam.
While the NYPD helicopter was in that area, a green beam was directed into the cockpit, causing both of the pilots also to lose sight temporarily. The pilots observed that the laser beam appeared to originate from a particular second floor apartment.
NYPD officers responded to the apartment later that night, and officers recovered a laser pointer from the top of a refrigerator. Written on the laser pointer is the warning: “DANGER—LASER RADIATION—AVOID DIRECT EYE EXPOSURE.”
The original police report stated officers encountered Egan, who, after being questioned, admitted to officers that he is the owner of the laser and did use it that evening.
The U.S. Attorney’s release stated that when questioned the night of March 9, Balaguer admitted that he owned the laser pointer, but denied knowing who pointed the laser pointer at passing airplanes.
On March 13, Balaguer admitted to law enforcement at Egan’s appearance before a judge that he shined the beam of the laser pointer at an airplane on March 9. Balaguer further admitted to lying to law enforcement when he was interviewed by NYPD officers on March 9, according to the release.
Charges against Egan are still pending, said a spokesman from the Bronx D.A.’s office.
“Pointing a laser pointer at the operator of an aircraft is an irresponsible act that poses a real and immediate danger,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton in a statement. “It is important that the public understands that the intentional misuse of this device has the potential to create a devastating outcome and is against the law.”