Law enforcement authorities in the United States and Mexico are seeking to identify individuals lasing aircraft along the U.S.-Mexico border from Del Rio, Texas/Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila to Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras.
During multiple evening operations earlier in October, aircraft operated by the Texas National Guard flying near Del Rio and Eagle Pass were repeatedly hit by laser pointers from the ground. Working with U.S. law enforcement, Mexican law enforcement determined one of the laser beams originated from Ciudad Acuña. Consequently, the Fiscalia Coahuila Criminal Investigative Agency arrested two individuals at a residence in Ciudad Acuña for allegedly lasing the aircraft.
Officials said pilots flying aircraft along the U.S.-Mexico border in this area reported multiple lasing incidents over the past year. Many pilots reported being temporarily blinded by the laser beams. The powerful beam of light from a hand-held laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting, and temporarily blinding pilots. Officials said this is a significant public safety threat, which endangers pilots, aircrew, passengers, and individuals on the ground. Further, laser beams also have the potential to cause long-lasting damage to pilots’ vision.
“Law enforcement operations executed this week demonstrated the participants’ shared commitment to aviation safety along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of FBI San Antonio said.
Knowingly pointing the beam of a laser at an aircraft is a violation of federal law, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five-years’ imprisonment. It is also prohibited in Mexico.
“Illegal acts like this endanger lives and will not be tolerated,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Austin L. Skero of U.S. Border Patrol said. “Working with our state, local, federal, and international partners, we are committed to tracking down and apprehending criminals like these to safeguard our communities.”