Federal raid stuns family when son suspected of shining laser at pilots

Federal raid stuns family when son suspected of shining laser at pilots

22-year-old faces felony charge after pilots say he aimed light at helicopter

Kiefer, 22, spent the night in jail and faces a third-degree felony.

The lights are easy to obtain and legal to own if used correctly. Hoping to get the message out that lasers must not be pointed into cockpits of aircraft, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw joined federal and airport authorities Monday to announce the arrest.

"It’s not about this particular person being a danger," Bradshaw said at a news conference at Palm Beach International Airport. "When somebody uses a laser to paint the cockpit, it can blind the pilot and an aircraft can go down."

Kiefer and his parents, Thomas and Kathleen, were taken by surprise. The family said they were unable to get a copy of an arrest document, yet there was the sheriff, publicly revealing the details of their son’s arrest.

They said they weren’t given a chance to read the search warrant and were forced outside as agents searched the house, threw their belongings on the floor and kicked in the door to Kiefer’s room, while his mother stood out back shouting, "Don’t break the door down, I have the key."

"They held me outside like I was a criminal, guns pointing at me," said Kathleen Kiefer, who worked as a federal airport security screener at PBIA for three years until she went out on disability last year.

Kiefer’s parents both said they offered to cooperate and to hand over any lasers. But the agents refused.

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office declined comment on the Kiefers’ account.

The Sheriff’s Office said there have been several laser incidents this year, including one in July that they think came from the same house.

Kamstra said that after he and Fell were lasered last Tuesday, they circled the area and shined the spotlight on the house but the laser didn’t stop.

"This seemed to me so blatant," Kamstra said.

Sheriff’s Detective Eric Reid said Kiefer later told deputies that "The helicopter was blinding him, so he wanted to blind the helicopter back."

Kiefer, a business student at Palm Beach Community College and an avid gun collector, said he played with the laser but denied he intentionally shined it in the cockpit.

"If a cop would have said, ‘Hey, you shined a light at a bird, do you know that’s a federal offense? Do it again and you will go to prison,’ I would have thrown mine away," he said.

Dianna Cahn can be reached at dcahn@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6645.

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