In 2016, 44-year-old Nikolay P. Bocharnikov, a mobile locksmith, was asked to help the cops unlock a stolen car. He came and did his job and was informed that he could keep some of the items that were inside the vehicle, as they didn’t belong to the owner of the car. A green laser pointer was among them.
His attorney told the court that the laser remained forgotten in his van for over a year. Then, one night, Bocharnikov and his friend found it and were curious to see its range. They started pointing it in the distance, at trees and finally at the sky. When a plane passed by, Bocharnikov pointed the laser at it, believing (according to his attorney) that it would not reach it.
The plane, which belonged to the Portland Police Bureau and was on a mission, was flying at 4,000 feet above sea level and the laser struck it four times. It hit the pilot in the eye and temporarily blinded him for 4 or 5 seconds. So much for Bocharnikov’s assumption that the laser only had a range of 500 yards.
The pilot was able to determine the location of the laser on the ground and alerted his mates. Police showed up at his door within the hour and took him in. About 3 months later, the FBI also showed up, and Bocharnikov was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft. Asked by the FBI agents why he did it, he said it was “the kid in me” who made him want to see for himself if he could reach the plane with the laser pointer.
“He’s sorry. It was an incredibly foolish decision,’’ Bocharnikov’s attorney told the court. “He’ll never do something like this again.”
The publication notes that, while pointing lasers at aircrafts is illegal, convictions are very rare for the simple reason that it’s difficult to find the person using it on the ground. In other words, fate was not on Bocharnikov’s side that night.