State troopers charged a Lincoln man late Friday night with striking the NSP helicopter with a laser multiple times as it was flying over the city.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense because it can distract or even blind the pilot. Every laser strike constitutes an in-flight emergency, NPS spokesman Cody Thomas said.

At approximately 10 p.m. Friday, the NSP helicopter took off from the Lincoln Airport to help Lincoln police with an operation. Shortly thereafter while flying west of downtown Lincoln, the pilots reported a laser strike to Lincoln Air Traffic Control.

While searching for the origin of the laser, the pilots reportedly were hit with more laser strikes. They identified the source — someone walking on a path near Salt Creek south of West O St., and directed troopers and police to the location.

Thomas said the subject was found with a laser pointer and was taken into custody without incident. After consultation with the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office, Lee Cimfel, 42, of Lincoln, was placed in Lancaster County jail, charged with second-degree assault.

The laser strike was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. People who shine lasers at aircraft face FAA fines of up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple violations. 

Some high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots, the FAA says. Pilots reported nearly 9,500 laser strikes to the FAA in 2022.

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