An aimless gesture or pointed mark? Laser crimes happen often, but arrests are rare at PBIA

Recent arrest shines light on a pointed crime

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - “The first time I got hit with a laser, it got me in the left eye,” said Sgt. Michael Musto, a pilot who oversees the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit.

 /><var> </var></p><p><var>Sgt. Michael Must oversees the aviation unit for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He says he has been hit with a laser at least four times.</var></p></figure>
<p>“When you get hit for the first time with one of these, you are startled. By the time you figure out that you are getting hit by one of these green lasers, you have looked at it a longer than you should.”</p><p>Musto was hit with a laser for the first time about ten years ago, and estimates he has been hit three other times since.  </p><p>“My eye felt like you were holding an ice cube on it. You go to the eye doctor the next day, spend a few hours with him, and he said I had superficial damage on the outside of by eye.” </p><p>According to Dr. Rebecca Bobo, an ophthalmologist at Florida Vision Institute, superficial damage could jeopardize a pilot’s career if the eye is unable to heal. “If you damage that part of the eye, not only can if affect the vision but it can be very, very painful.”</p><p>Musto is not the only one. He says just about every pilot on his crew has been hit by a laser.</p><p>“You would think it would be kids and juveniles, but the ones we actually catch and prosecute are typically adults,” said Musto.</p><p>Using data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, Contact 5 found Palm Beach County had 71 laser incidents in the last 18 months, but only one arrest.</p>

<figure class=

Jackie Robledo, Lake Worth, talks to Contact 5 about her recent arrest for pointing a laser at a helictoper. Her charges were dropped.

“We all make mistakes, and playing with the laser was the biggest mistake I ever made,” said Jackie Robledo (33, Lake Worth), who found herself in handcuffs last month after she admitted to pointing a laser at the PBSO helicopter. 

“That was the worst day of my life. And in front of my kids? That was the worst thing ever. I wanted to die,” said Robledo, who spoke exclusively to Contact 5. 

Robledo, who is a school district employee and a mom to four young girls, explained the incident happened during a blackout in Lake Worth, and friend brought a laser over to her house. She told Contact 5 it was an accident.

“I’m really sorry, and I’m ashamed, and embarrassed. I did not do it on purpose. I promise you I did not do it on purpose,” said Robledo. 

An aimless gesture, or a pointed mark? That is a question for the State Attorney’s Office (SAO), who determines whether or not to prosecute the third degree felony, which carries up to a five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

According to a spokesperson for the SAO, laser crimes are often hard to prosecute, because it is often difficult to prove intent. In Robledo’s case, the charge was dropped. 

Regardless of intent, when a laser beam reaches 1,000 feet, Must says it is no longer a pinpoint.  “You light up a cockpit with it, and it’s very bright. It takes away your concentration,” said Musto. 

Use the map below to see laser incidents reported to the FAA between 2015 to 2017.

Print this article Back to Top