A man accused of aiming a laser pointer at a San Diego police helicopter during a summer protest was arraigned in federal court Tuesday.
Stephen Glenn McLeod, 38, of San Diego, is accused of directing the laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter multiple times on Aug. 28. Specific details on the location of the protest were not disclosed.
"When aimed at an aircraft, a beam of light from a handheld laser can illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding the pilots,'' said Suzanne Turner, special agent in charge of FBI San Diego. "It's a federal felony that the FBI and our law enforcement partners take very seriously.''
The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
McLeod appeared in San Diego federal court Tuesday, during which a personal appearance bond of $35,000 was set. He's due back in court Nov. 20.
"We support everyone's right to peacefully assemble and protest,'' U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said. "Aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter, however, is highly dangerous and a serious violation of federal law.''
McLeod is not the first person charged locally with pointing a laser at a police helicopter during a protest.
In June, Lemon Grove resident Rudy Alvarez was also charged for allegedly shining a laser pointer beam at an SDPD chopper during a June 6 protest in Hillcrest, then pointing a laser at the aircraft several more times as he marched with protesters through downtown.
His case is slated for a motions hearing and jury trial, which could start as soon as next month.