OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An 18-year-old Oakland man was due to be arraigned in federal court on Sept. 5 on a charge of shining a laser pointer at an airborne California Highway Patrol helicopter in June.
Christian Palomino was indicted by a U.S. grand jury Thursday on one count of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to knowingly aim a laser at an aircraft.
The indictment replaces an Aug. 11 criminal complaint containing the same charge. The grand jury action makes it unnecessary to hold a preliminary hearing on the charge.
Palomino, who is free on a $10,000 bond, will be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu in Oakland at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 5.
The complaint alleges that while a CHP helicopter was responding to an incident near the intersection of Bancroft and Seminary avenues in Oakland at 11:10 p.m. on June 7, the helicopter’s flight officer noticed two bright green flashes coming from the ground below.
The flight officer used the helicopter camera to identify two suspects as the possible source and enlisted CHP officers in a patrol car to pursue them. The officers allegedly found a green laser pen in Palomino’s pocket, according to the complaint.
Knowingly pointing a laser at an aircraft was made into a specific federal crime in 2012 in response to a growing number of such incidents, in which pilots can be distracted or temporarily blinded. The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.
Palomino’s bond carries a condition of a 6 p.m. curfew. He was released into the custody of his mother in Oakland.