MIAMI — A Florida man is accused of pointing lasers at airplanes near Miami International Airport last year, authorities said.
Rolando Galvan Yague, 61, was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, according to Miami-Dade online court records. Bail was set at $5,000.
He is also facing several additional charges out of Polk County, WSVN reported.
Authorities said Yague used a green laser pointer and shone it into the cockpits of airplanes as they took off from and landed at Miami International Airport for about a year, WSVN reported.
Investigators pinpointed the laser to a neighborhood located a mile and a half east of the airport, the television station reported.
Police set up an undercover operation in the neighborhood. Yague was walking his dog, and a police officer said he saw him flash the laser at an aircraft, WTVJ reported. According to an affidavit, when police confronted Yague, he allegedly threw the laser through the gate of his home and onto the driveway. The laser still gave off a bright beam, according to WTVJ.
In the arrest report, detectives called the pointer “an apparatus which is used to shine into the cockpit of aircraft and cause impairment to the aircraft and the pilots operating the aircraft.”
Police said the first incident was reported in March of 2020. Several reports followed for a year, WSVN reported.
“At night it’s obvious. It can illuminate the entire cockpit, be extremely distracting even it doesn’t squarely hit the pilot in the eyes,” Jay Rollins, a retired captain of American Airlines, told WTVJ. “Just that sort of distraction can be enough to create a crash.”
In February 2020, Yague was acquitted of a similar crime, the Miami Herald reported. Miami police claimed at the time that Yague had aimed a laser pointer at a police helicopter, the newspaper reported.
“They had no direct evidence. It was circumstantial,” Yague’s defense lawyer, Richard Gregg, told the Herald in February 2020. “Neither the pilot nor the flight officer, could describe what the guy looked like.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 266 confirmed reports in 2020 of someone pointing a laser at an aircraft in Florida alone. Forty of those incidents happened in South Florida, WTVJ reported.