SAVANNAH -- An Effingham County resident has been indicted on federal charges for aiming a powerful laser at commercial aircraft.
Roger Floyd Hendricks, 48, of Rincon, was indicted by a U.S. District Court grand jury on three counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Each count carries a possible penalty of up to five years in prison and substantial fines, followed by a period of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is not a prank; it’s incredibly dangerous and stupid,” said Christine. “The FBI did an outstanding job of locating and stopping this threat to hundreds of Savannah air travelers.”
The Federal Aviation Administration contacted the FBI in February for assistance in locating the source of three separate green laser strikes on aircraft inbound to the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. According to the indictment, those strikes included:
- A Nov. 27, 2019, strike on Commutair flight 4935 from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The aircraft, an Embraer ERJ-145, has a capacity of more than 50 passengers and crew and landed safely.
- A Dec. 8, 2019, strike on Delta flight 697 from Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The aircraft, an Airbus A321, has a capacity of up to nearly 200 passengers and crew and landed safely. And,
- A Jan. 14, 2020, strike on NetJets flight 385 from Chicago Midway International Airport. The aircraft, a Cessna Citation Sovereign, has a capacity of eight passengers plus crew and landed safely.
Hendricks was charged after he was identified in the FBI investigation.
In the past year, the FAA reports that nationwide there were more than 6,000 laser strikes on aircraft in United States airspace.
“Aiming a laser at an airplane is not a game, it’s a federal felony and something the FBI takes very seriously,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “These alleged actions placed the lives of innocent air travelers and commercial airline crews in danger and must be prosecuted.”
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Joshua S. Bearden.