MIDDLE RIVER, Md. (WJZ) -- A potentially deadly prank. A teenager is accused of pointing a laser at a Maryland State Police helicopter, putting the pilot in danger.
Weijia Jiang explains this is just one incident that's part of a disturbing trend.
A state police helicopter was on a search mission in Middle River when something blasted the chopper.
"Initially, we thought it was lightning," said Maryland State Police medic TFC Joshua Heins.
In an instant, Heins and the pilot became victims to a green laser pointer. Police say a 14-year-old was shining it from half a mile away on the 2200-block of Southorn Road. The crew flew straight there and beamed right back.
"We hovered right over the house, kept the night sun right over the front porch. Within minutes, police officers were there," Heins said.
In fact, six minutes after he sent the laser at the plane, the teenager was in handcuffs. State police say it's their sixth case this year. The light can blind the pilots for several moments.
"It's pretty scary that anything can crash at any time and hurt people," said Corey Lacey, the next door neighbor.
When WJZ filed a special report about the alarming trend, we found the number of aircrafts targeted by lasers doubled in the past year to 2,800---the highest level ever.
We also took you inside a Southwest flight on its final approach to BWI. Thirteen hundred people were on board. This is the air traffic control recording from that night:
"Tower, Southwest 512. Just off my left side right now, about a quarter-mile, a green laser."
When the laser strikes the chopper, the beam breaks up into several lines. It's so powerful, it lights up the entire cockpit.
"Now you've got a danger flashing right in front of your face when you're doing another mission," Heins said.
Police say that's why catching those behind the laser is critical, so they won't strike again.
"Pointing this at an aircraft is not a video game. It affects people's lives," said Maryland State Police Aviation Command Lt. Walter Kerr.
Police say the teenager is back in his parents' custody, waiting to learn what the penalties will be.
for more features.