A Brookfield man charged with shining a laser pointer at an airplane on several occasions in 2010 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of aggravated assault and aggravated battery at a court hearing on July 12 at Maybrook.
Jason G. Heeringa, 29, received two years probation, was fined $250 and will have to complete 240 hours of community service as part of a plea deal worked out with prosecutors.
FBI agents arrested Heeringa in April and turned him over to Brookfield police, who charged him with 14 counts of aggravated assault for shining the green laser at a cargo plane heading to and from Midway Airport.
It was the pilot of that plane, J.J. Guerra of Ohio, who led police to Heeringa after mapping out his location by installing a video camera inside the cockpit and using Google Earth technology to triangulate the origin of the light.
Guerra posted a video of his own investigation on YouTube. His cockpit camera on June 16, 2010 at about 2 a.m. caught flashes of green light coming at the plane which was five nautical miles northwest of Midway Airport, flying at 4,000 feet. He used his plane’s position and geographic features to determine the origin of the flashing light, pinpointing it to the vicinity around Prairie and Congress Park avenues in Brookfield.
Based on that information, FBI agents began going door to door in the area, looking for anyone who owned a laser pointer. At a house in the 4300 block of Prairie Avenue, agents talked to someone who mentioned a family member had such a device. Heeringa later admitted he owned a laser pointer and turned it over to the FBI.
The FBI routinely investigates complaints of laser pointers directed at planes to determine whether the goal of such an act was the destruction of an aircraft. At the very least, the lasers “interfere with the pilot’s ability to land the aircraft,” FBI spokesman Ross Rice told the Landmark at the time of Heeringa’s arrest.
According to a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, Heeringa’s actions caused the pilot of the plane momentary “flash blindness.”
Some people convicted of pointing lasers at aircraft have received jail time. Just days before Heeringa’s arrest, a Chicago man received 30 days for pointing a laser at two aircraft.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration there were 2,800 incidents involving lasers pointed at aircraft in 2010, including 98 at O’Hare Airport.