Local Man Arrested For Blinding Pilot Of Helicopter - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |


Local Man Arrested For Blinding Pilot Of Helicopter


By Adam Shear

WACO - Waco Police arrested a man late Thursday night who they say shined a high-powered spotlight at a Department of Public Safety Helicopter, which temporarily blinded the pilots.

Around midnight, two DPS troopers were hovering above a Waco neighborhood to assist police with a routine search. During the flight, police say Gary Don Williams, 28, grew irritated with the noise from the helicopter and flashed a spotlight from his home off Turner St. towards the chopper.

The cockpit of the helicopter lit up and because the troopers were wearing night vision goggles, the flash temporarily blinded them.

"The [DPS] helicopter pilots were able to regain sight, call [Waco PD] ground units, we got to [Williams's home], and he told us what he did," said Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department. "He's now in jail for illuminating an aircraft, which is significant event, very serious."

In addition to the illuminating charge Williams could face additional charges from the FAA and the FBI. A FAA spokesperson says illuminating an aircraft is a punishable $11,000 civic penalty and could be a federal crime as well.

A DPS spokesperson says lights being shined on their helicopters is a recurring issue in the Waco area and they hope it stops.

"I've spoke with pilots in the area and they are having people shine red and green lasers at them," said DPS Trooper D.L. Wilson.

Troopers say that shining lights towards the helicopter threatens the lives of their pilots and residents who live below where the helicopters fly.

"In the middle of the night there is a reason [DPS helicopters] are up there," said Wilson. "[The pilots] are there to protect the safety of the public and assist other [law enforcement] agencies. That's the reason we're there. We're not there to irritate people and wake them up in the middle of the night."

This is not Williams first go-around with police, his arrest record shows previous charges of car burglary and vehicle theft.

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