NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — At least three people have been arrested in Nashville this month after reportedly directing lasers at police helicopter crews, but according to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been far more incidents reported.
The latest data from the FAA shows that 12 laser incidents have been reported in Nashville so far this year. In a February interview with News 2, Sam Evans, an instructor with Class Bravo Air, said it happens more often than the average person would think.
“Most of these occur at night, and when you’re flying at night, your pupils are much bigger than they are during the day and so they can let even more of that dangerous light into your eyes,” he said.
That same month the FAA sent a letter to laser manufacturers and distributors asking for new warnings to be placed on laser pointers after hundreds of planes in Middle Tennessee were hit by shining lights, posing a danger to pilots.
In the latest incident, a Metro Nashville Police Department helicopter crew reported being hit with a laser while flying toward “dangerous street racing activity.” The police department later released a video in which the laser could be seen shining into the helicopter from a white sedan.
An arrest affidavit said the helicopter crew tracked the vehicle from Corporate Drive all the way to Thorton’s gas station on Old Hickory Boulevard, where officers arrested the driver, 21-year-old Jacob Derryberry.
The report said officers found the laser attached to a BB gun inside the vehicle. The incident happened on Saturday, May 27 — less than three weeks after Metro police arrested two men who reportedly pointed a laser at a crew flying over the Madison area to help detectives.
Police said the laser was strong enough to reach more than a mile and a half into the sky and temporarily blind the pilots. According to the FAA, some high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots who at times may be carrying hundreds of passengers.
The three men arrested this month are facing felony charges for aggravated assault on the flight crews, with the most recent suspect booked into jail over the weekend. In total, the FAA reports that there have been about 2,500 laser incidents nationwide so far this year.