SEATTLE (CN) – A man who intentionally blinded a Border Patrol helicopter pilot with a high-powered spotlight admitted to an FBI agent it was “probably a bad idea,” but claimed he “made things better because government helicopters have stopped flying over his house,” according to a criminal indictment.
Wayne P. Groen was arrested by his car “with the spotlight in his hand, wearing only his underwear,” after shining the spotlight at a Customs and Border Protection agent on the ground, according to the federal complaint.
Groen has been criminally charged with interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft and incapacitation of its pilot.
“Groen confirmed that he was the individual responsible for shining a spotlight at the aforementioned CBP’s helicopter on September 22, 2010. Groen said he was upset at the time, and that he wanted to let the ‘Border Patrol’ know they were bothering him. Although Groen admitted that shining his spotlight at the helicopter was ‘probably a bad idea,’ he tried to justify his actions by stating that what he did ‘made things better’ because government helicopters have stopped flying over his house,” according to the complaint.
The pilot was wearing night vision goggles that amplified the spotlight, temporarily blinding him, and he could not remove the goggles because he was flying the helicopter and the copilot had to guide the aircraft.
“Agents D.S. and E.H. were acting in their official capacity as CBP Air Interdiction Agents (AlAs), and were providing support to an ongoing U.S. Border Patrol interdiction operation. Less than one minute after the agents arrived on the scene, an individual on the ground shined a bright spotlight into the cockpit of the helicopter. Both Agent D.S. and Agent E.H. were wearing night vision goggles to fly the helicopter, which allows them to see in the dark by magnifying the light around them. Agent D.S. was blinded by the light, but because he was piloting the helicopter, he was unable to remove his night vision goggles. Agent E.H. was temporarily blinded as well, although as co-pilot, he was able to remove his goggles. With Agent D.S. unable to see, Agent E.H. had to direct the flying of the helicopter and read the helicopter’s instruments as Agent D.S. flew the helicopter. They were close to the airspace of Abbotsford airport at the time, flying approximately 500 feet above the ground. As a result of the spotlight being shined into the cockpit, Agents D.S. and E.H. were forced to fly away from the scene and were unable to safely complete their law enforcement mission. The spotlight was trained on them for approximately five minutes,” the complaint states.
If convicted, Groen faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.