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9,400 Laser Strikes on Pilots Reported in 2022. This Bakersfield Man Got Caught.



photo of a green laser beam
Richard Earl Francis, 51, of Bakersfield, pleaded guilty to shining a green laser at a Kern County Sheriff's helicopter. (Shutterstock)
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The Federal Aviation Administration says it received 9,457 reports of laser strikes last year, including three a month in Bakersfield.

On Monday in Fresno federal court, Richard Earl Francis, 51, of Bakersfield, was sentenced to one month in prison, 11 months of home detention, and 36 months of supervised release for aiming a laser pointer at a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.

Francis previously served 71 days in custody and that is considered part of his sentence, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced Francis’ sentence in a news release.

According to court documents, on July 28, 2022, while the sheriff’s helicopter was patrolling Oildale, Francis shined a bright green laser into the cockpit of the aircraft four times. One of the airmen experienced temporary vision loss in his right eye.

Francis pleaded guilty in December 2022.

The FAA advises that, when aimed at an aircraft, lasers can cause visual interference and incapacitate pilots. Such incidents have been reported most frequently in the Western Pacific and Southern regions of the U.S.

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