One person was arrested Sunday morning after authorities say he used a laser to temporarily blind a CHP helicopter crew hovering near a sideshow.
A California Highway Patrol – Golden Gate Division helicopter took to the air after reports of multiple sideshows around 2:15 a.m. in Oakland on Sunday, according to a CHP media release. The crew spotted about 50 cars parked or spinning at 42nd Avenue and Interstate 880 before the drivers took off for 54th Avenue and International Boulevard, where they linked up with about 150 other vehicles.
As gunfire echoed and fireworks illuminated the night sky, 24-year-old Pittsburg resident Ponciano Bojorquez allegedly began shining a laser toward the helicopter. The crew kept an eye on Bojorquez as his green beam repeatedly penetrated the cockpit 10-15 times, CHP flight officer Shaun Bouyea said, and followed him after he left the scene in a white sedan headed south.
After being arrested at International Boulevard and High Street by Oakland CHP officers, Bojorquez was charged with felony discharging a laser at an aircraft as well as six related misdemeanors. He faces up to $11,000 per laser strike and three years in prison if convicted, and is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Bouyea said CHP had contacted the FBI’s Laser Task Force and intended to pursue two federal felony charges against Bojorquez as well.
Several people in the larger group came from a sideshow in Richmond that left a police officer with multiple broken bones, cuts to the head and road rash after he was hit by a car, Bouyea said.
“These aren’t teenagers who are just trying to have some fun,” Bouyea said. “These are young adults, people that are 18-35 years old that are committing a crime by taking part in these sideshows, and they’re dangerous.
Illegal sideshows are held virtually every weekend in the Bay Area, Bouyea said, and several CHP aircraft have been struck by lasers since November. After Sacramento Police Department officers broke up a sideshow shortly after midnight on Jan. 21, CHP officers deployed a spike strip to catch a suspected runaway driver outside of Fairfield.
Bouyea did not know if any other sideshow participants had been arrested or cited.