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Eastern District of California

Aug 26, 2023

FRESNO, Calif. — Andrew Nathan Hernandez, 20, of Bakersfield, was sentenced today to four months in prison for knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a Kern County Sheriff's helicopter, Air One, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, on Dec. 26, 2020, Hernandez aimed the beam of a green laser at the Sheriff's helicopter, striking it multiple times. Hernandez was attending a street race in the area of Hughes and White Lane in Bakersfield at the time. Once he was identified, Hernandez led law enforcement ground units on a nine-minute, 11-mile high-speed chase before he was eventually apprehended. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience significant visual interference as a result of temporary flash blindness and after images.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration website, in 2020, the FAA received 6,852 reports of laser strikes, which was up from the year before. The FAA advises that, when aimed at an aircraft, lasers can cause visual interference and incapacitate pilots. Such incidents can occur anywhere, but have been reported most frequently in the Western Pacific and Southern regions of the United States.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kern County Sheriff's Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar prosecuted the case.

For Immediate Release