Yusuf confessed to shining a green high-intensity laser at the police helicopter in June 2021 as it was operating a regular nightly patrol in the area of Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
The light illuminated the cockpit, causing the two pilots to temporarily see spots in their vision. When the two officers regained their full sight, they traced the source of the light to the ground near the Roosevelt Mall and used the aircraft’s flood light to identify Yusuf as a male wearing a blue shirt and jeans. The officers radioed for assistance, and Yusuf was arrested by officers on the ground.
Yusuf plead guilty in December 2021 and was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release. At the time of his arrest, Yusuf was under federal supervision following a 2016 conviction for firearms trafficking and was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine by US District Judge Michael Baylson for violating the terms of his supervised release.
Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious crime
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Department of Transportation – Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Wolfe.
“There is a reason that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense – the consequences for those onboard and anyone in the vicinity could be disastrous,” said US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Williams. “Let this be a warning to anyone who might consider trying something similar: you could face serious federal prison time as a result.”
“Mr. Yusuf made an extraordinarily bad decision — and did so while on federal supervision for his previous offense,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “This sentence not only holds him appropriately accountable, it shows how seriously we take it when someone uses a laser pointer in such a reckless and risky way.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received 9,723 reports of laser strikes from pilots in 2021 – the highest annual number on record.