NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A Virginia Beach man has pleaded guilty to pointing a handheld laser at several Naval aircrafts.
According to U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride, Robert Bruce, Jr., 56, pled guilty to laser dazzling Naval aircraft operating at Naval Air Station Oceana. A statement of facts provided by the U.S. Attorney's office said a noise complaint line received calls from a phone number belonging to Bruce.
"On April 10, 2012, the NAS Oceana Air Operations Community Noise Complaint Line received a voice message from [phone number]," the statement read. "The unidentified man stated that he hated the Navy and that if he had a '30-30' he would start taking pot shots at the planes."
The statement said the complaint line received five additional messages from Bruce's number, each expressing his frustration with the jet noise.
MacBride said several complaints were made by F-18 pilots about laser dazzling as they practiced landing over a period of months. With a mapping device, officials were able to pinpoint the origin of the laser to Bruce's home in Virginia Beach.
On June 5, special agents conducted surveillance and captured Bruce standing in his backyard, pointing a green laser at the sky. A search warrant was later executed and a laser was seized from Bruce's possession, MacBride said.
Bruce then admitted to pointing a laser at Naval aircraft on the night he was captured on surveillance.
"It caught my eye directly," Lt. Cmdr. Laurie Coffey said. "It was painful, with lingering effects that night. One of our other pilots got lased as well. We kind of likened it to taking a pencil and poking it in your eye."
"Laser harassment of aircraft not only places pilots and passengers at risk, but also endangers those on the ground," MacBride said. "Those who choose to place our military personnel in peril should be on notice that their conduct is against the law and will not be tolerated."
Bruce will be sentenced on Oct. 29 and faces up to 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
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