It was a night of coincidental light beams that got two men jailed.
“Yeah, we’re getting hit by a laser multiple times,” the pilot of Air One, Volusia County’s emergency helicopter, is heard saying in an on-board video as it flew over Palm Coast’s C-Section late Wednesday night. “We aren’t going to be able to help you much until this is taken care of.”
Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies had called Air One to help them find Jeff Thomas, a 36-year-old man who’d allegedly bailed out of his car and run off into the woods. A deputy had initiated a traffic stop on Thomas after Thomas allegedly began to flash his car’s high beams as he drove north on Old Kings Road North. A deputy was driving south and was at the receiving ends of the beams. Thomas left his high beam on after a series of flickers.
After he was pulled over deputies decided to search the car once they smelled a strong odor of pot, but just then Thomas, his arrest report states, pulled out and allegedly fled. A search began, and deputies called in Air One, which has night-vision capabilities on board.
But as Air One was circling above the C Section, the laser flashing began. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime, though the Federal Aviation Administration reported 5,663 such incidents in 2018, down from 6,754 in 2017 and over 7,000 the year before. The FAA lists one such incident in Bunnell last Dec. 21, involving a place at an altitude of 6,000 feet. It reported two such incidents on successive days, on Oct. 11 and 12 last year, in unincorporated Flagler County, from aircraft flying at 3,000 and 2,500 feet.
“How much harm can a little laser pointer do?” an FAA video narrates. “Actually, a lot. Did you know that pointing a laser at an aircraft can distract or temporarily blind the pilot, potentially putting the lives of many innocent passengers at risk? That’s why it’s a federal crime with serious consequences, like fines of up to $250,000 or up to five years in jail.” The offense applies even if the laser is pointed at the flight path of the aircraft, not just at the aircraft itself. “It’s not a harmless joke.”In Florida, pointing a laser at an aircraft is a third-degree felony (a second-degree felony if the incident causes harm). The law also extends to pointing a laser at a person operating a vehicle or a boat or at a law enforcement officer engaged in performance of duties.
“9 Chelsea Court is hitting us with a laser multiple times, is pulling us off of this call,” the Air One pilot continued, onboard thermal imaging video showing the whitish silhouette of an individual within a screened-in back porch. “We got eyes on somebody on the back porch by the pool who’s been hitting us with a green laser.” A different angle moments later shows the individual flashing the laser at the helicopter a couple of times. “Flagler, we’re getting hit by that laser again. Are we [having] a unit in route to that?” Then the pilot says: “They’re hitting us with it right now.”
Deputies had by then arrived at the house, which was dark. Gregory Marr, 60, came out to meet deputies, asking if they were looking for anyone.
Marr made news before. In May 2016, he was arrested for firing his gun in his backyard after he’d become angry that his wife, who worked in a health care facility in Putnam, had been in lockdown. (His wife’s facility had gone into lockdown because an individual had shot herself in the facility’s parking lot.) Marr had been drinking. He was charged with a felony. The charge was later downgraded to a misdemeanor charge of improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon. He was found guilty.
Wednesday night, when he walked out to meet the cops, a deputy told him they were looking for someone in the area, but that they were also investigating the laser-flashing from Marr’s house. Marr told a deputy he did not own a laser pointer, though the Air One pilot had identified the man speaking to deputies as the same individual who’d pointed the laser. Marr was placed under arrest. He continued to deny pointing the laser at the helicopter, according to his arrest report, and saying he didn’t own such a device.
His wife, speaking to another deputy, said otherwise. She said they’d been watching television that night but had gone to bed at 10:45 p.m., after which Marr got up repeatedly to go to the kitchen, she thought to get more wine, though she didn’t know what he was doing precisely. She said they do own two laser lights they use to play with their dogs. One had exhausted its batteries, she said, the other was still in its packaging.
After he was placed in a patrol vehicle, Marr said, “I did it,” according to the arrest report. He told a deputy “he observed the helicopter flying above and shined the laser at the helicopter three different occasions: twice from the pool deck and once from the side of the residence,” according to his arrest report. He told them he’d left the laser pointed by a grill on the pool deck. Deputies found it there. It shined green when a deputy turned it on, pointing in a safe direction.
Marr was charged with a second degree felony, his bond set at $1,500 and his conditional release including a prohibition on alcohol, with the possibility of a urinalysis.
Meanwhile Air One returned to the original call, leading deputies on that call to Thomas, who was also arrested. According to his arrest report, Thomas, using an expletive, said he didn’t care what the judge did “because I wanted to make you work.” His driver’s license had been suspended. He was charged with fleeing and eluding, a felony, failure to dim head lamps, and driving on a suspended license. His bond was set at $4,500. Thomas is a Daytona Beach resident.
Marr in 2016 had faced another set of felony charges. Adjudication was withheld on felony charges of battery and false imprisonment. The victim was his wife. He was charged with domestic assault and battery in 2017, in an incident that again involved his wife. He was found guilty of the battery charge.
“Not only did his dangerous and stupid actions divert our search for the fleeing suspect but shining a laser at a helicopter could have caused the helicopter to crash by blinding the pilot,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release. “In Florida, shining a laser beam at a pilot in flight is a felony offense. We appreciate the assistance of the Volusia Sheriff’s Office to apprehend and arrest both individuals and I’m very thankful his actions did not result in a disastrous crash that could have killed the pilots and people on the
And these are Adults doing stupid things that they know shouldnt be done and I guess think they will get away with it. Its disconcerting that a grown man would behave in this fashion. SMH
C’mon man says
Hopefully Bloomberg can pay both these fines in time for these idiots to vote.
Inspector Maggot says
Wait, wasn’t the sheriffs office just touting their state of the art city/county super cyber room. How about using that to chase petty crooks instead of freaking everyone out with home shaking copter blades and whining about pet lasers? No one wants to answer for the constant air highway and low flying taking place above our residential homes, but heaven forbid the instant a laser comes out these guys know exactly where to go and what to do. So I guess it really didn’t impair the pilot’s vision since he was able to supposedly ID the guy on the ground huh?
Roy Longo says
It didn’t impair the pilots vision this time. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
john stove says
Volusia Police Pilot was temporarily blinded in the eye with same type of green light laser and had to do an emergency landing in a parking lot……
Concerned Citizen says
As a fixed wing pilot with Instrument and Night ratings.
I am glad to see authorities starting to take this seriously. It’s been an ongoing issue for awhile. And will only take one incident to cause a fatality.
Flying at night is already challenging. Coupled by the fact that the pilot on an LE mission is already busy shinning a laser or other light into the cockpit is stupid. And an intentionally criminal act. It is childish and immature. You are putting the flight crew at risk for no good reason whatsoever.
Imagine you are driving down the road and someone shines a laser in your face. Hopefully you might be able to pull over after becoming disoriented. Well at a thousand feet or less that pilot doesn’t have much time to react. And pulling over isn’t an option. Once you loose your night vision your depth perception and orientation are thrown off and it takes time to recover.
If you intentionally try to harm the pilot of an aircraft it should be an attempted murder charge. Then it might slow some of you down who sickenly think this is some kind of humerous thing to do.
As a former Deputy myself having air support has meant the difference in going home safely at the end of shift.
john stove says
This guy needs to be put away for a long time….he is a menace to us all. His history shows that he in incapable of learning from his past and it is getting worse. If that pilot was blinded (even temporarily) from that laser he could have easily lost control of his aircraft and crashed, not only killing the crew aboard but anyone unlucky enough to be sleeping in their house!!
Talk about a loser with no regard for either his wife it sounds like or the rest of us.
Give him the maximum sentence for 3rd degree felony (5 years) and see if he learns anything!!
How low can you go to do this to a pilot that could blind them and cause an accident. Throw the book at him and please judges don’t just give him a slap on his wrist, let the fraud charges hold and give him a hefty fine on top of it.
Imagine how much money we would have for schools and other projects if we didn’t have to waste it on morons like these guys. When they finally are caught, the courts downgrade the charges and the deterrent to future stupidity is rendered ineffective. I have been hit by lasers from the ground on multiple occasions. I wonder if these geniuses realize they are inviting a catastrophe by potentially having hundreds of gallons of jet fuel exploding in their neighborhoods. It’s really hard to catch these people when they hit civilian planes flying at high speeds over densely populated areas. Make an example of this jerk.
White Bronco says
So the police around here are zombies that are deeply offended by light. Got it. Thank god for the Butterfly Effect. Otherwise that could’ve been a boring beat!
Concerned Citizen says
I’m sorry you think it’s OK to shine laser’s into aircraft.
This town is starting to look like Orlando with all the crime and developments going in.
me too says
You can’t fix stupid.
I wouldn’t want to work anywhere near where Mr Marr’s apparently Co-Dependent wife does. Who knows what this guy is capable of doing, with his unchecked rage, his addictions and his Domestic/Abuse history?
Polly Wog says
The man with the Laser made a poor choice and is lucky nobody was hurt. The helicopter could’ve fallen out of the sky and landed on someone’s house. There’s no excuse for shining a laser but I can’t help but wonder if this man was driven insane over the near constant flight school aircraft noise, along with Navy Seahawk helicopters designed for anti submarine warfare that practically skim the rooftops in our community for “training missions.” I wonder how many people heard that police helicopter inside their homes around midnight for roughly 40 minutes. I did. How many families and children were awoken by this helicopter and that same one at an even lower altitude on September 9th at approximately 2 AM? Does law enforcement ever issue a public apology for disturbing the peace of a congested community? No, they do not. In addition to that helicopter how many times that day or the days leading up to this incident did a flight school student turn off the engine above this man’s home and literally force the aircraft into a “stall” so the student could “train” how to recover? This type of maneuver is performed on a daily and nightly basis by multiple aircraft over most areas of Palm Coast. Although “stalling” is not an intentional spin, it can cause one. “A NASA study conducted in the 1970s confirmed that recovering from an intentional spin typically required about 1,200 feet of altitude, making a spin initiated at or below pattern altitude unrecoverable even with perfect technique.”
Access the Flightradar24 app and observe the altitude of some of these flights when you hear the engine turn off and backfire over your home. If Embry Riddle hasn’t turned off the transponder keeping you in the dark you will notice debatable altitudes. This is one of many real issues that can cause stress in communities like ours. According to the flight schools and the FAA (that is staffed by people in the same industry it’s supposed to be keeping tabs on), these maneuvers are for pilot awareness. There’s a “Move along, nothing to see here” attitude after an “Investigation” is performed based around a complaint. Did the man with the laser perhaps feel so helpless or hopeless that nothing could be done about this issue to the point where he broke the law? Did the near constant noise from Cessna aircraft and helicopters eventually drive this man to do something reckless and dangerous? He did something stupid, yes. However, before we condemn him to the pits of hell like some of you love to do, try and think about what the possible issues are and what can be done to make our community a better place for all of us. Overpolicing is the easy answer but it has a negative psychological effect as we’re now seeing across the US and the world. It’s just not a logical way of thinking anymore. What are the issues that are causing the problems so many people struggle with? It’s no secret that Flagler County’s suicide rate is extremely high. What is the common denominator? Who knows, maybe it’s as simple as too much lead in the air from piston driven Cessna aircraft. Maybe it’s something else. Regardless of his reason for why he did what he did, considering police helicopters are equipped with night vision and god knows what else, perhaps the use of his middle finger would’ve been the wiser choice for communicating his opinion from the ground up. That’s actually protected by free speech.
What about the man who fled? Maybe the officers headlights were so intensely bright he felt the urge to flash back? Not a wise choice to flash back and elude but why are Flagler PD’s low beams so darn bright anyway? Oh wait, maybe that’s not their low beams.
You offer up a lot of misinformation here. First, the engines are not “turned off,” but merely brought to idle, and, yes, they occasionally backfire, which could be avoided by simply bringing the power smoothly to idle, instead of yanking them to idle. You stated it could take up to 1200 feet to recover from a spin, which are not intentionally practiced over populated areas, but COULD result unintentionally from practicing a stall. Well, that is why stall practice is conducted at a minimum altitude appropriate for the aircraft type, typically 3,000 feet, twice as high as your worst case scenario. Before training in stalls, a pilot receives spin recovery training theory and technique, and how to avoid spins in the first place by keeping flight controls coordinated. Most typical training aircraft have to be grossly mishandled to spin, and a pilot not up to the task will not be signed off to solo practice anyway. It is highly doubtful that Embry Riddle pilots turn off their transponders; that would be a willful violation of the law and not very helpful to the pilot’s future career; a gross and willful violation of the regulations would be disqualifying at a major airline. There are really no “debatable” altitudes in aviation. Minimum altitudes for flying over congested areas are well defined in the regulations. And yes, there is airport noise around the airport in Flagler, which has been there since 1942. There are also helicopters, from the National Guard here at the airport. I think occasional noise from them is a small price to pay to live in the most free, greatest country in the world. Finally, there is a process to air grievances in this country; endangering the lives of others because you are upset with your lot in life is not acceptable, although there seems to be an increasing number of people who no longer subscribe to that theory and consider taking matters into their own hands at the peril of others to be quite acceptable, and an equal number of those who make excuses for them.
Polly Wog says
“First, the engines are not “turned off,” but merely brought to idle, and, yes, they occasionally backfire, which could be avoided by simply bringing the power smoothly to idle, instead of yanking them to idle.”
Thank You for informing me the backfiring engines from various flight schools over our congested community are not turning off. I stand corrected. That is very reassuring. As far as I understood it up to your point, piston engines are not totally silent when idling. Again, thank you for clearing up this perception. By the sound of it, let’s “assume” you’re a pilot? With that said, I am not. I think it’s safe to say most people on the ground underneath you are not pilots. Yet, we have to endure your noise (if you fly small aircraft in this area) that is protected by outdated FAA regulations that are in your favor. Florida is a beautiful place full of natural resources, beaches and parks. Whether someone is a “local,” chose to retire here or vacationing, who wants to endure something from which there is no escape unless the weather is bad? These “regulations” do not favor most non-pilots who reside underneath where many students currently practice maneuvers and generate noise (even sometimes after midnight.) If regulations did favor residents, there would be at the least more of a limit to the amount of flight schools that are allowed to operate over congested areas in a given timeframe. Pilots of small aircraft would have to refrain from flying over congested communities late at night. Their location would be identifiable AT ALL TIMES on apps like on flightradar24 so pilots and schools can’t dodge accountability.
The population of non-pilots in this area has INCREASED and will continue to do so while it appears the number of flight schools are also increasing. The FAA should do what’s right, step in now and limit the amount of flight schools in this congested area and perhaps consider the entire North Florida area. But residents can’t hold their breath with a regulatory agency that includes pilots themselves.
What is wrong with the idea of requiring flight schools operate over less populated areas? The talking points I often hear are, “Flagler Airport was here first” along with “Why did you buy a house there?” It is not only arrogant to think this way, these arguments no longer hold water. Most of the flight schools north of Palm Coast Parkway are coming from DAYTONA. They literally fly a straight path from Daytona, practice over my neighborhood and fly back. What is Embry Riddle and other flight schools in the area doing to help residents deal with the noise we have to endure? Nothing. More “good neighbor” talk, more gaslighting, more snubs and talking points like, “You should appreciate us. Where do you think pilots learn to safely fly while transporting you?”
Filing complaints about altitude violations is met with a glimmering hope from their initial generic “investigation” reply that eventually feels like a predetermined outcome that usually ends up with “not enough evidence.” What more evidence can a person on the ground provide other than a clear picture displaying a registration number, the time, date and altitude screenshot from FR24?
In regards to noise, depending on which model aircraft, there are some at 3000 ft that sound like others at 1000 feet (or below). There is nothing but air blocking the noise from the plane itself and people on the ground. How would you like it if drivers education students were accelerating up and down your street with a muffler missing from the vehicle while you were trying to sleep or enjoy your basic right to quality of life? How would you feel if you decided one day to complain and the police told you, “These students are learning how to drive sir. In order for it to qualify as a noise complaint they have to drive by every 2 minutes for a period of 45 seconds at a rate of 10 miles per hour. On your street students are abiding by the law and only driving by every 3 minutes at a rate of 15 miles per hour.”
“You stated it could take up to 1200 feet to recover from a spin, which are not intentionally practiced over populated areas”
How does a pilot “not intentionally” practice over a congested area? Are you saying students never look down or they don’t have instruments that tell them exactly where they are? Is there not enough room to practice far enough AWAY from a congested area? Or are they practicing over a congested area so they have a place to land (like a street) if something should go wrong? Please enlighten those on the ground who are subjected to large, noisy, flying metal objects over their homes all day when the only thing defying gravity is a couple of wings or rotor blades and a “qualified” student.
“Well, that is why stall practice is conducted at a minimum altitude appropriate for the aircraft type, typically 3,000 feet”
“Typically” is not reassuring. Sorry.
“Before training in stalls, a pilot receives spin recovery training theory and technique, and how to avoid spins in the first place by keeping flight controls.”
Yes, and before a professional skateboarder does a kickflip over a friends head on the ground he or she practices to minimize the chance of something going wrong. Would you stick your head under there? Don’t worry, “it’s safe.”
“It is highly doubtful that Embry Riddle pilots turn off their transponders; that would be a willful violation of the law and not very helpful to the pilot’s future career; a gross and willful violation of the regulations would be disqualifying at a major airline.”
How would you explain the pictures I have of Embry Riddle planes (with tail numbers) over my house and the FR24 screenshots taken at nearly the same time with no such registration numbers indicated in the surrounding area? Ghosts? More specifically: N452ER 6/11/2020 12:39pm, N435ER 6/12/2020 10:40am, N455ER 6/16/2020 2:40pm, N410ER 6/16/2020 2:47pm, 6/17/2020 11:22AM. Just a few examples.
How would you explain the videos I have of noisy, repeated circling of Cessna aircraft over my neighborhood at night with nothing showing on FR24? It’s probably just a “glitch” within the app right?
“There are really no “debatable” altitudes in aviation. Minimum altitudes for flying over congested areas are well defined in the regulations.”
Yes, you are correct. “Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.” I have many FR24 screengrabs over the past few years with pictures of flight schools operating under 1000 feet over the City of Palm Coast according to the indicated altitude. Complaints to the Orlando FAA are met most of the time with, “Not enough evidence.”
“And yes, there is airport noise around the airport in Flagler, which has been there since 1942.”
There it is… the infamous, “they were there first” argument.
“There are also helicopters, from the National Guard here at the airport. I think occasional noise from them is a small price to pay to live in the most free, greatest country in the world.”
Sounds very patriotic. I love my country. We have something in common. I wasn’t referring to the National Guard. I was referring to Navy Seahawks flying extremely low over our residential community for “training purposes.” Am I not supposed to ask what they are doing with all that tech on the bottom of these helicopters hovering a couple of hundred feet over my house because, ‘merica? If a military pilot is flying that low over civilian communities on a regular basis for “training” then that must mean the same civilian communities are perhaps unwittingly participants in these training missions right? I don’t remember signing up for that. Last time I checked I had a choice… and I’m still a proud American who gives thanks to those who serve.
“Finally, there is a process to air grievances in this country”
Yes, some residents in Palm Coast are quite as familiar with the grievance process as I am… “not enough evidence.”
“Endangering the lives of others because you are upset with your lot in life is not acceptable”
Agreed. We again have something else in common. “The man with the Laser made a poor choice and is lucky nobody was hurt. The helicopter could’ve fallen out of the sky and landed on someone’s house. There’s no excuse for shining a laser”
“and an equal number of those who make excuses for them.”
Seeking out answers that can lead to solutions that improve quality of life for preventive measures is not an excuse. It’s how we in good conscience, help continue to shape “the most free, greatest country in the world.”
Kim H. says
Are the issues with the flight schools still going on? Any progress?
I live in Colorado and have the same issues here – and am being told by the FAA that it will take an act of Congress which I think we should all get on board with