Police officer suffers eye injury after an unknown person strikes with a laser pointer
COLLEGE PLACE, Wash. – A College Place police officer is back on duty after being treated for an eye injury caused by a laser pointer. Now police are trying to figure out who was involved.
Many people may think of these lasers as a toy, but even if someone was just playing around, the Chief of police said this is no laughing matter—it’s considered a serious crime.
In this case, it sent their officer to the hospital with damage to his eye.
"I don't think people know the extent of damage that can be done from a laser pointer, it can actually burn your retina or blind a person," College Place Police Chief Troy Tomaras said.
Chief Tomaras said one of his veteran officers, Bill Kelly, was driving on SE 6th St. Sunday at 8:30 p.m., and when Kelly rolled up to the stop sign at College Ave. someone pointed a green laser at him, striking him in the eye.
"The laser burned his cornea and he immediately took a defensive posture and tried to identify where the laser was coming from,” Tomaras said. “But he was unable to identify where that came from."
Police are not sure if there was criminal intent in this incident, but whether it’s kids playing around or someone looking to do damage, there are serious consequences.
Unlawful discharge of a laser at a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty is a class C felony (RCW 9A.49.020). A Class C Felony conviction carries a $10,000 fine and imprisonment up to five years.
The Chief said he takes the act as a breech on his officers’ security and wellbeing. Tomaras said they will pursue any suspects.
"It is a big problem and we need to alert people," he said.
There's been more hazardous laser incidents around the country, including the FFA dealing with these blinding beams regularly with helicopters and airplanes.
With improvements in technology, Tomaras said lasers are burning hotter and farther.
"Lasers are very powerful they can actually reach out a long way, up to a mile,” he said. “We want to make sure people are aware of that. It's not just fun and games, you can actually do serious damage with these things."
Officer Kelly was treated and released from the hospital on Sunday.
If anyone has any information regarding this incident please call or contact Detective Roger Maidment at the College Place Police Department 509-394-8551.