The first man arrested in North Texas on suspicion of pointing a laser at a plane said Wednesday that he did it because he was "tired of circling helicopters" above his house.
In a sometimes rambling interview at the Dallas County Jail, Sammy Ladymon described himself as an amateur astronomer and said he bought a $40 laser the size of a pen at an electronics store.
"It uses a green laser beam," he said. "It's for pointing at the stars."
Ladymon, 45, was arrested Thursday night outside his Garland home on Park Circle after police said he pointed a laser at a Southwest Airlines jet that was near Garland and just minutes away from landing at Dallas Love Field.
The Southwest pilot radioed what happened, and an FBI pilot flew over the area to investigate, said FBI spokesman Mark White.
The FBI pilot then reported he, too, was hit by a laser and directed agents on the ground to Ladymon's location.
"A swarm of vehicles came down the street and said, 'Freeze, FBI,'" Ladymon said. "And I went, 'Ah-hah, now we know whose helicopter it is.'"
Asked if he aimed a laser at the planes, he said, "The one circling overhead, yeah.'"
Ladymon said he didn't realize he may have also aimed his beam at the Southwest plane a short time earlier.
"That could have happened," he said. "It didn't get hit for very long, that's for sure."
North Texas leads the country in laser incidents, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford. Pilots have reported 51 incidents this year -- well above the 34 in all of last year.
Last week, the FAA warned that the issue is a growing concern nationwide and announced a new $11,000 civil fine for anyone caught aiming a laser at a plane.
Ladymon said he is a retired engineer and computer instructor. He said he had never been arrested before, doesn't see himself as a criminal and doesn't believe he did anything wrong.
"It's certainly a different tactic than firing a bullet at them or something," he said.
Ladymon complained that low-flying helicopters or airplanes frequently buzz his house and said he believed they were harassing him.
"Occasionally, it would be getting in the way, and I might have spent some time pointing at it," he said. "I don't want to incriminate myself here."
Ladymon declined to say how many airplanes or helicopters he targeted with his laser or if he had done it before Thursday night.
"I certainly regret any aircraft -- especially passenger aircraft -- that I may have endangered," he said. "I certainly do."
But Ladymon wouldn't rule out doing the same thing again.
"I can't say," he said. "I'd certainly be more careful."
Ladymon is charged with illumination of an aircraft by intense light, a misdemeanor. He said he cannot pay his $1,000 bail because he has no family or friends willing to help him.
He said he is housed in a cell with eight inmates who were surprised to learn the charge against him.
"They call me 'the laser pointer guy,'" he said.
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