SAN ANTONIO, Texas (U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas) — In San Antonio Monday, a federal judge sentenced 39-year-old Justin John Shorey of Schertz, TX, to 51 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a San Antonio Police Department helicopter, announced U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer, FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division, and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra ordered that Shorey be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.
“Pointing lasers at law enforcement is extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury. This is particularly true when the pilots of an aircraft are involved,” stated U.S. Attorney Sofer. “Today’s 51-month prison sentence demonstrates the seriousness of this offense. We will aggressively prosecute anyone who purposely points a laser at an aircraft, endangering both people in the air and those in our communities on the ground.”
On November 20, 2019, Shorey pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. According to the factual basis filed in this case, on February 17, 2019, Shorey knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in flight. The San Antonio Police Department helicopter was flying just north of Highway 90 West, assisting in the search of a shooting suspect. When the laser beam made contact with the helicopter, it hit the pilot in the eyes affecting his ability to see and read his gauges.
At the time, the helicopter was flying in the path of the San Antonio International Airport, and Shorey’s actions endangered both civilian flights and the public on the ground. The pilot and his tactical officer onboard began a search for the laser suspect. Shorey admitted to aiming the laser at the aircraft once as it approached his location in the 2100 block of Hays Street in San Antonio and twice as it circled above him.
The pilot managed to land safely at the San Antonio International Airport. The injury to the pilot’s eyes caused by the defendant’s actions resulted in the pilot being unable to fly for a week.
“When aimed at an aircraft, 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. Lasing an aircraft represents a significant public safety threat, which endangers pilots, aircrew, passengers, and individuals on the ground, should an aircraft crash or require an emergency landing,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Combs. “This case should serve as a warning to others who engage in this dangerous criminal activity.”
“Actions such as lasering law enforcement helicopters are dangerous for the pilots assisting officers on the ground. I was glad to hear that the Department of Justice does not tolerate this behavior and held Mr. Shorey accountable for his actions,” stated San Antonio Police Chief McManus.
If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the San Antonio FBI at 210-225-6741. If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the nearest local law enforcement agency immediately by dialing 911. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
The FBI and San Antonio Police Department conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Roomberg and William R. Harris prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.