Man in top hat and peacoat arrested for pointing laser at helicopter: ‘It’s not often we see suspects walking around in top hats’

News & Politics

A 52-year-old man was arrested by Michigan state troopers after he was spotted on aerial cameras pointing a laser at a police helicopter from the steps of a farmer’s market.

A Detroit man was recorded by a helicopter shining a laser at the aircraft, CBS News reported, prompting Michigan State Police to report the incident on their social channels.

“Trooper 3 was on patrol over the city of Detroit and had a suspect in a top hat and pea coat was [sic] pointing a laser at them,” the X account for the police force wrote.

As police were called to the scene, the man continued to point the laser at the helicopter as he stood on the steps of a local restaurant and coffee shop. The location is a former church that hosts a farmer’s market.

The suspect began walking out to the street when police arrived and was promptly arrested by two officers.

The entire incident can be viewed on police footage recorded by the helicopter, which shows the suspect in great detail using long-distance zoom and night vision capabilities.

“It’s not often we see suspects walking around in top hats, but it did make him easy to identify,” Michigan State Lt. Mike Shaw said. “We can’t stress enough how dangerous it is to point lasers at any aircraft. We will continue to track down those who do this in order to keep our pilots safe.”

The 52-year-old from Willis, Michigan, was taken to the Detroit Detention Center. His case is reportedly pending a prosecutor’s review.

A report from May 2023 showed a stark increase in crimes related to “laser lights” since 2013. After a Madison Heights, Michigan, man was arrested for also shining a laser at a police helicopter, CBS Detroit reported that incidents had approximately tripled in the last decade.

In 2013, incidents involving lasers totaled 3,960. By 2017 that number was up over 6,700, then over 9,700 in 2021. For 2023, totals had increased to an estimated 12,000 incidents.

These occurrences reportedly caused both temporary and permanent eye injuries to pilots, 278 since 2010.

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