Man arrested for shining laser pointer at news chopper

UNION COUNTY, NJ —  Union County man was arrested Thursday, Jan. 7, and charged with aiming a laser pointer at a WABC-TV helicopter, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Stiven Lopez-Bender, 26, of Elizabeth was charged by complaint with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Lopez-Bender was scheduled to make his initial appearance last week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark Federal Court. According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: On Nov. 11, 2015, a reporter working for WABC-TV, Channel 7, N.Y., an affiliate of ABC Inc., requested a helicopter operator, also working on behalf of WABC, to fly the helicopter to a location in Elizabeth to cover a story on a house fire. At approximately 5:20 p.m., while facing south at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet, a green laser was aimed at and struck the flight deck of the helicopter through the main windshield.

The reporter and the helicopter operator allege that Lopez-Bender emerged from a sports utility vehicle, reached into the passenger side, and then pointed a green laser at the helicopter, causing a second laser strike to the helicopter. The helicopter operator lowered the helicopter to approximately 500 feet. As Lopez-Bender walked towards an apartment building, he reportedly turned and again pointed the green laser toward the helicopter before entering the apartment building.

The helicopter operator then circled the area at an altitude of approximately 800 feet. Within approximately 10 minutes, the helicopter was again lasered from a window in the apartment building Lopez-Bender had just entered.
The maximum punishment for this crime is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.