TACOMA -- A 27-year-old Pierce County man is in jail on suspicion of committing the bizarre crime of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser.
The man was allegedly pointing a laser at a Washington State Patrol plane on night patrol at 2:35 a.m. Sunday over Tacoma looking for impaired drivers on the road.
Someone was pointing a green laser at the plane -- so the pilot turned on an infrared grid to isolate the location. Then the laser hit the plane again.
"We just got lasered by a subject on the ground," the pilot reported.
Fortunately, the plane was equipped with infrared technology and the pilot could actually see the suspect standing outside his mobile home.
"I got him," the pilot said.
The pilot was able to pinpoint the location and direct officers on the ground to the exact location.
The suspect, Arron Huffman, lives with his grandparents.
His grandfather, Albert Rainey, said Tuesday that his grandson was "playing with a toy flashlight and that's exactly what it was -- it was a toy flashlight. Just one with, what do you call it, a laser beam?
"Well, now I can understand it since 9/11, but I'm 60 years old, I can understand it. I think ahead. He's 20 something years old. He don't think ahead."
First-degree unlawful discharge of a laser is a felony, and carries a maximum of 10 years in prison if the accused is convicted.
"What people may not recognize is how dangerous" a laser can be to a pilot, Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. It can "blind and disorient the pilot."
"In this case, the defendant shined the laser on the wrong cockpit," Lindquist said.
WSP Aviation currently manages seven aircraft: 2 King Air’s, 3 Cessna 182’s and 2 Cessna 206’s equipped with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras. A large priority of the aviation section's goal is aerial speed enforcement and traffic congestion management, WSP has said.