FBI agents have traced another airline laser incident to a gay nightclub, this one in Dallas, TX. Last year, after pilots began complaining of laser beams penetrating their cockpits, investigators linked the green beams to gay nightclubs around the country, where laser wielders use the green rays to shine a light on club ‘hotties.’
For one gay couple, night out ends in handcuffs
By Todd Fox
Editor’s note: this is an updated version of a story that originally appeared on the Swift Report on January 7th, 2005. We will continue to bring you breaking news on this topic as it unfolds.
Dallas, TX—Investigators are blaming the latest in a series of airline laser incidents on more gay club-goers. After the captain of an American Airlines jet reported that a laser beam had penetrated his cockpit as the plane prepared to land at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, investigators fanned out to gay nightclubs throughout the area. They reportedly found dozens of men armed with green lasers at popular gay clubs in Dallas including Buddies II, Hidden Door and Zippers.
A good time—gone bad
Investigators first became aware that gay club-goers were the source of the airline laser incidents after Cleveland residents Paco Garcia and his boyfriend Thom Feldman were detained when Garcia inadvertently pointed his laser beam—a popular accessory at gay dance clubs—at a police helicopter.
“Suddenly all these black SUVs surrounded our MiniCoop,” says Garcia. “Next thing we knew, we were in the back seat of a Ford Explorer wearing handcuffs." Adds Feldman: "We're open to a lot of stuff, but S&M is not big on our list."
But their nightmare was far from over. The two men were held until the next morning, as members of the FBI and local police force questioned them about their connection to recent laser incidents in the Cleveland area, including one that took place on New Year’s Eve as a commercial jet approached the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Laser lovers to blame
Garcia and Feldman were released without charges after authorities determined that they didn’t have enough evidence to hold the men. Under the Patriot Act, the men could have faced up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for disrupting the operation of a mass transportation vehicle.
But while this particular couple got off, authorities now believe that gay club-goers may have been responsible for pointing lasers at aircraft in other areas. The FBI is said to be interviewing patrons of the following nightclubs about recent laser episodes:
• The Hide and Seek Complex, Colorado Springs, CO. On Dec. 27, two pilots reported that green pulsating laser lights were shone into their cockpits as they were approaching the Colorado Springs airport. Both the passenger plane and a cargo plane landed without incident.
• Bricks Club, Salt Lake City, UT. In September, a Delta Air Lines pilot reported an eye injury from a laser beam shone into the cockpit during a landing approach in Salt Lake City.
• The Tool Box, Nashville, TN. Earlier this week, a green laser was pointed at a Chicago-bound regional jet as it took off from Nashville International Airport.
Homosexuals, terrorists, or both?
Earlier this year, federal agents charged Parsippany, NJ resident David Banach under the terms of the Patriot Act after he confessed to pointing a light beam at two aircraft.
Agents said they’re still not clear on whether Banach is gay, but note that they’ve been interviewing patrons of Connexions, a Parsippany club that offers country line dancing on Tuesday nights and caters to gay men.
“We’re obviously at the beginning of our inquiry and we’re not sure if this particular individual was intending to try to bring down the aircraft or was just a homosexual having a bit of fun,” says John Parris, an FBI spokesman. “By talking to gay men who are going out to these clubs to dance and what not, then get the urge to point their lasers at planes, we need to say ‘don’t do it.’ There are serious penalties involved here.”
Queer eye on the hot guy
In recent years, pocket lasers have become increasingly popular at gay dance clubs. Paco Garcia explains that club-goers often use the green laser pointers to add to the excitement on the dance floor. “When you see a buff guy, guys point pocket lasers on him. That way he stands out and he knows that we think he’s hot,” explains Garcia.
Hundreds of inexpensive lasers were sold within Cleveland's gay community alone this Christmas, some for as little as $15. The lasers, while strong, are completely legal.
Fans of the pocket searchlights are also quick to draw a distinction between red lasers, typically used by teachers in a classroom lecture setting, and the green lasers used by homosexuals and terrorists.
Todd Fox can be reached at [email protected]