A Bronx man who admitted to shining laser pointers into the cockpits of arriving and departing flights at LaGuardia airport and an NYPD helicopter surrendered to FBI agents yesterday and has been charged in federal court, according to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office.
Last week, Elehecer Balaguer told a State Supreme Court that he was responsible for shooting the laser on the night of March 9th. Balaguer's future brother-in-law, Frank Egan, had already been charged with felony assault and reckless endangerment. But Balaguer said they got the wrong guy, and claimed he committed the crime. "Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it," he told the court last week. "It was just like a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do."
According the Balaguer's attorney, the 54-year-old has a lengthy rap sheet, history of drug abuse and suffers from bipolar disorder. "He wasn’t being venal. Just stupid," attorney Manuel Sanchez Jr. said in court yesterday.
Shooting lasers into cockpits is incredibly dangerous and can cause pilots serious eye injuries. "As charged, Elehecer Balaguer’s actions were simple but potentially disastrous: pointing a powerful laser at airplanes carrying hundreds of people and then at a police helicopter," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement yesterday. "In fact these actions had dire consequences that could have been worse yet, including impairing and damaging the vision of pilots with the possibility of creating real danger to the aircraft."
Balaguer has been charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, which could net him up to 5 years in prison. Charges against Egan are expected to be dropped next month.