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Suspects in helicopter laser incidents arrested

July 4, 2011 | 10:10 am

Map shows approximate location of incident in black and recent crime reports in brown and red. Click for more details on The Times' interactive Crime L.A. project.

Two Los Angeles men were arrested Monday on suspicion of shining a laser at police helicopters in South Los Angeles, police said, which could lead to both state and federal felony charges.

Floyd Atkins, 22, and Alvaro Jimenez, 20, were apprehended around 2:40 a.m. at a home near the corner of Paloma and 29th streets, not far from Central Avenue. Officers found two laser devices, which can cause a pilot to be temporarily blinded and sustain retina damage, said Sgt. Mel Stevenson of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division.

Police intend to notify the FBI of the arrests and conduct their own investigation into whether the two men were involved in a string of other incidents involving lasers and commercial jets heading to Los Angeles International Airport, as well as helicopters flown by the LAPD and the county Sheriff’s Department.

“Over the past six months, we've had numerous laser incidents with aircraft in the same area,” Stevenson said.

Atkins was held on $20,000 bail, while Jimenez was in custody on $20,540 bail.

Monday’s incident began at around 1:45 a.m., when a police helicopter was illuminated by a laser right before the end of the pilot’s shift,  Stevenson said. Minutes later, a second police helicopter -- one whose pilot was wearing protective goggles -- arrived to search for the suspects. That aircraft also was illuminated by the suspects, he said.

The two men went inside a house and were arrested shortly afterward. Police recovered two lasers, which are frequently sold to astronomy buffs who use the green light to identify constellations, he said.

Shining a laser at an airplane or helicopter is a felony and can lead to federal charges, Stevenson said.

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Map: Shows approximate location of arrest in black, and recent reported crimes in brown and red. Credit: Crime L.A.

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