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Man who shines laser at SABLE helicopter arrested

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It was a dark night on Saturday, but while the SABLE flight crew helped police survey the scene of a domestic violence dispute, a laser light, that could have blinded the crew or caused the helicopter to crash, stole their attention. No SABLE flight crew had ever been targeted by a laser light before Saturday. While it could have blinded the pilot, quick thinking and new technology helped police find Nicholas Wheeler around Hinton and Park avenues. The pilot used the night vision binoculars, which would protect his eyes from damage, to locate the source of the light. The technical officer then used SABLE's infrared camera to locate Wheeler and lock on to the signal until police on the ground were able to find him. Kenneth Timms, WPD’s chief pilot said, “Anything out there that produces heat we can pick up with the thermal imaging system, and even if it's pitch black out there we can find a suspect who is lying down on the ground.” Timms said WPD doesn't use the technology just to catch the bad guys; the same tools can be used to find missing children and Alzheimer’s patients. Just recently SABLE helped locate a hiker who had injured himself in the woods and was unable to get to safety. Timms said while laser pointers are not illegal in North Carolina, it is illegal to shine them at an aircraft. Wheeler could face federal charges for his interference with a flight crew.

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