Pointing laser lands teen in big trouble

Wanda English Burnett

A North Vernon teen could be in serious trouble after an incident involving a laser and a helicopter.

According to information from Sgt. Noel Houze of the Indiana State Police, the incident occurred in early June about three o’clock in the morning. ISP Sgt. Rick Cool, who was piloting the helicopter and Trooper Tim Cummins were flying back to Indianapolis after a late night aerial search in Clark County.

While the two flew over Jennings County, the pilot noticed a green light on the door of the helicopter. He took evasive action to avoid a possible mid-air collision as he suspected the light to be from a fixed wing aircraft. However, shortly after the first incident, the pilot noticed the green light reappearing in the cockpit.

The pilot then suspected the light was a laser light coming from the ground. They began a circular search of the area, obtaining a GPS reading. They were assisted by troopers and deputies from the Jennings County Sheriff’s Department in their ground search.
Detective Roger Drew of the Indiana State Police began a joint investigation with Special Agent Jeremy Michaels of the FBI Indianapolis office. That investigation led to a suspect, Clint L. Williams Jr. 18, of North Vernon.

After several discussions between the Jennings County Prosecuting Attorney, Alan Marshall and the United States Attorney’s office, charges were filed against Williams. He was arrested July 22 at his home without incident, according to police.

Williams was incarcerated at the Jennings County Jail on one count of Criminal Recklessness, a Class B Misdemeanor. This carries a maximum penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine. However, Williams could be facing additional charges on a federal level that would land him in federal prison for up to five years, with a two-year mandatory minimum.

Sgt. Houze noted that it is important for the public to realize that pointing a laser at a person or vehicle is extremely dangerous. But, pointing a laser at an aircraft can be catastrophic. “In this incident the helicopter could have easily crashed killing the pilot, the passenger, and innocent persons on the ground. For this reason, incidents such as this are taken seriously by law enforcement and if caught, perpetrators can expect to be prosecuted,” he concluded.