Here’s one of the stranger stories to come out of the ongoing protests and riots, though it took place a week ago. During the June 3 protests in Detroit, a Customs and Border Protection helicopter was being used to monitor the activities in the southeastern portion of the city near the Canadian border. While the pilot was aloft and keeping an eye on things, someone on the other side of the border began repeatedly pointing a green laser into the cockpit. This continued even after the pilot took evasive action to avoid being blinded. Who would be targeting an American CBP chopper from Canada? (NY Daily News)
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter surveilling protesters in Detroit on June 3 was repeatedly hit by a green laser fired from across the border in Canada.
Phil Petro, the pilot, told ABC News the suspect pointed the beam at the cockpit repeatedly even after he maneuvered the aircraft away.
“They knew what they were doing,” Petro said. “They were aiming and adjusting their aim on purpose, with purpose to strike the aircraft repeatedly.”
The pilot was able to capture video of the attack and follow the attacker, leading to the arrest of 22-year-old Ali Zuhair of Windsor Canada. The pilot was able to keep track of Zuhair’s location continuously while he called in the crime to an airport tower in Windsor, leading to his capture.
We don’t know much about Zuhair at this point and it’s unclear how much of an online profile he might have because Ali Zhhair turns out to be a really common name. But according to his local paper, this wasn’t his first brush with the law. He was charged with not only “mischief,” but breach of probation. What he’d done to land himself on probation was not disclosed.
This was a lot more than just mischief, however. The United States will be able to request extradition of Zuhair on felony charges. If the Canadians turn him over (a big “if” with Trudeau in charge), he could be looking at up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
What we don’t know thus far is… why? What motivates a Canadian like Zuhair to endanger and potentially bring down an American CBPP helicopter. (Perhaps unlikely, but possible if he had blinded the pilot.) Was this just a young punk who thought he was pulling a prank? Or was he perhaps acting in some sort of misguided solidarity with the American protesters and rioters? The most extreme possibility is that this is a guy with some serious terrorist aspirations who was seeking to take advantage of all the confusion and mayhem surrounding the protests to strike a blow against the American government. I suppose we won’t have much insight into that unless he starts talking or we at least learn what he was previously charged with.
Sadly, Zuhair isn’t alone in these activities. The FAA reported upwards of 6,000 instances of people shining lasers into aircraft cockpits last year. Whether they’re all aspiring terrorists or just idiots, we see yet another case of modern technology making the world a more dangerous place in the wrong hands.