Omaha man gets 15 months in prison for aiming laser pointer at police helicopter

By: - November 2, 2023 6:27 pm

Green laser beam coming from a hand-held laser pointer (Getty Images)

LINCOLN — A federal judge sentenced an Omaha man Wednesday to 15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter two years ago.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2021, according to court documents, 34-year-old Richard C. Detty of Omaha was on a smoke break at work with a green laser pointer that was part of his work equipment.

Detty pleaded guilty June 28 and wrote he was pointing the laser at different buildings to see how far it would go. He then heard the helicopter and pointed the laser near it.

“I was not aware it was a crime,” Detty wrote. “I regret my actions.”

U.S. District Court Judge Brian C. Buescher accepted Detty’s guilty plea in September and sentenced him Wednesday to 15 months imprisonment and two years of supervised release. The charge carried a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.

Detty’s plea agreement states the pilot was startled by the laser light but maintained level flight, and neither the pilot nor an observer in the helicopter was injured. The observer used the video camera and infrared camera in the helicopter to identify the source of light outside Skinner Baking Company and sent officers to investigate.

“There is no evidence to show that Defendant had specific knowledge of the risk to the helicopter from illuminating it with a laser pointer,” the court document states.


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.