Two Prince George's County officers are lobbying for a change in Maryland law after experiencing a scary situation in the sky.
For Cpl. Chris Elrod and Officer Ed Martin, the frightening episode began with a routine training flight over College Park in the Prince George’s County Police helicopter.
“We were about 800 feet circling an apartment complex when all of a sudden a brilliant blue light came inside the aircraft,” says Cpl. Elrod.
The men were being hit by a powerful laser.
“If you can imagine being in a completely black room and a camera flash going off in your eye,” says Cpl. Elrod.
“It’s disorienting,” says Officer Martin. “It’s a blindness.”
Cpl. Elrod had temporary damage to his eye.
“At first you couldn’t see, the pain came about a half hour afterwards,” he says.
When the air crew directed the ground officers to the suspect’s location, they found a man in his forties with a flashlight-size laser. It is so powerful, it’s manufacturer boasts it can pop balloons and be seen from space.
“I think they think it’s fun and games, but it’s very serious for us in the aircraft,” says Cpl. Elrod.
Under current Maryland law, the specific act of shining a laser into an aircraft is not illegal. These officers want that changed. They’re now lobbying in Annapolis for a law that would make laser attacks on aircraft a misdemeanor subject to arrest and a fine.
“It will make the public aware this isn’t a laughing matter,” says Cpl. Elrod. “It is a serious issue.”
In fact, he says it could be a matter of life and death.