OAKLAND -- An Oakland man was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for aiming a green laser pointer at a police helicopter in East Oakland in June, authorities said.

On the night of June 7, Christian Palomino, 18, was arrested for allegedly pointing a laser at a California Highway Patrol chopper that was helping Oakland police search for a suspect in the area of Seminary Avenue and Elizabeth Street.

The chopper was "struck" at least seven times by the laser pointer from the sidewalk of Bancroft Avenue near Seminary Avenue, a CHP spokesman said.

After the chopper helped ground units quickly locate Palomino, officers recovered the laser pointer from his pocket, according to an affidavit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Oakland.

When he was asked for his name, he gave it as Roberto Palomino -- the name of his twin brother. When the suspect's mother arrived on the scene, she told officers her son's correct name, according to the affidavit.

A week after the arrest, Palomino called his mother from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin -- a call that was recorded, as all jail calls are -- and told her the laser incident was an "embarrassment." His mother replied, "You should be embarrassed for doing dumb-ass things," according to information written by in the affidavit.

Authorities said Palomino created a dangerous situation in the air and on the ground.


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A flight officer aboard the chopper at the time said laser pointers reflect off the interior of the helicopter, which turns the small beam into a large, extremely bright beam. This not only interferes with the flight crew's ability to assist ground units, but can also disorient or temporarily blind the pilot, the CHP spokesman said.

"The flight officer was able to quickly identify the green laser flash because he had previous experience being aimed at with a laser while in the aircraft," Koh wrote.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is dangerous but fairly common. Last year, there were 3,960 illegal laser pointing incidents nationwide, including 734 in California, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.