Milwaukee man charged with aiming laser at FBI plane
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A 38-year-old Milwaukee man has been charged with aiming a laser beam at aircraft, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to a criminal complaint, from May 31 to June 7, there were several incidents of people pointing green laser beams at aircraft operated by the FBI and the Wisconsin National Guard.
On May 31, the complaint says a special agent with the FBI and an Investigative Support Specialist observed a green laser targeting their aircraft from the ground, in the area bordered by North Avenue, Burleigh Street, North 10th Street, and North 14th Street.
In the late evening hours of June 3 and early morning hours of June 4, the two were operating the same aircraft when they again saw a green laser targeting them, according to the complaint. Using a camera, they were able to see the laser coming from one of three people on a lower porch of a home near 1st and Chambers. On June 6, law enforcement went to the intersection during the day and compared the footage from the camera captured on the plane to the actual home located there and they looked the same. It had an address in the 3000 block of North 1st Street.
The complaint states on June 4, the two were in the same FBI plane, when they again observed a laser targeting them from the area where protests were taking place near 76th and Center.
When asked how the laser affected the aircraft and its occupants, one of the members in the plane said there were two types in which the plane was targeted.
"In some instances, the laser would hit the wing of the plane and only a green dot would appear. In other instances, the laser would hit the windshield of the plane and illuminate the cockpit," the complaint said, "The laser had the potential to blind or cause loss of night vision to either himself or pilot."
The pilot added the lasers had the potential to create a deadly situation since it interfered with his ability to see his instrumentation.
On June 5, the two began wearing specialized goggles during the flight to minimizes the effects of a laser being shone in the cockpit and in the pilot's eyes.
On June 1, June 3, and June 4, the complaint said a Wisconsin National Guard pilot was flying a helicopter and during each of the flights, his aircraft was targeted multiple times by a green laser coming from the area to the east-southeast of the Milwaukee Police Department District 5 building.
The complaint noted this was less than half a mile from the home near 1st and Chambers.
On the evening of June 7, law enforcement on the ground saw two separate vehicles parked near a home in the 3000 block of North First Street that were registered to Jeremiah Belen.
That night, the two in the FBI aircraft, again observed a green laser targeting them. A camera captured the laser coming from one of two people on the porch of a home in the 3000 block of North 1st Street, according to the complaint.
Law enforcement went to the address and saw a woman and a man matching the description of Belen. The complaint says they were both, at separate times, pointing a handheld object toward the sky.
Belen told CBS 58 over the phone that this is a misunderstanding.
"My wife and I are always stargazing with my telescope. We point at objects with the laser," he said.
He said every clear night they are out looking at shooting stars or satellites.
"This is something my family and I always do before the protesting starts. They're making it seem like it was some sort of delinquent or criminal act because of the protesting and it's not. It has nothing to do with what's going on."
He said on June 7, it was his son's birthday, and they were outside looking at shooting stars.
"They weren't planes. I was telling my wife the difference between the planes, they have the blinking lights usually green or red. What we were observing looked like a star. No blinking lights, it was a consistent white light, and that's what we were aiming at, we didn't target no plane."
If convicted, Belen would face a maximum of 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.