CHICAGO (STMW) — One of two charged with pointing a laser at a commercial plane and a responding Chicago Police helicopter last month near Midway will spend 30 days in jail after pleading guilty on Friday.
Elvin Slater, 24, of the 400 block of West 60th Street and Shania Smith, 22, of the 8200 block of South Elizabeth were found in a car with the laser in the South Side Hamilton Park neighborhood on March 17, police said.
Both were initially charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft, police said.
But on Friday, Slater pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unlawful use of a weapon and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 18 months of probation and 30 days of SWAP (Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program), Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Andy Conklin said. Smith will next appear in court on May 4.
On March 17 about 8:30 p.m., a commercial flight pilot notified Midway personnel after a beam of light was shined at the airplane. Chicago Police were also called and a police helicopter was sent to the scene.
And while the helicopter responded, several more beams of light were shined at the helicopter, police said. The Chicago Police Department/Cook County Sheriff’s Police flight crew determined where the laser was coming from and directed ground units from the 7th District to that spot.
Upon arrival, officers found Smith and Slater seated in a vehicle, in possession of a laser, police said. Smith and Slater were taken into custody in the 6000 block of South Stewart Avenue, police said.
No one in the plane or helicopter was hurt because of the incident, police said.
The laser-pointing problem is a serious safety concern, according to an FAA study released in January. It showed high-powered lasers can distract pilots, damage their eyes and cause temporary blindness. The 2005 report states terrorists could use lasers to attack an aircraft.
At O’Hare, there were 98 reported laser incidents last year — second only to Los Angeles International Airport, which had 102 incidents.