Police helicopter crew hit with laser, pursues suspect through Fresno

FRESNO, Calif (KFSN) -- Early Sunday morning a Fresno Police Skywatch helicopter aircrew was helping officers on a call near Roeding Park when a man driving southbound on the 99 Freeway struck the helicopter with a green, high powered laser three separate times.

"It lights up the whole cockpit and of course if you're staring at it its immediately like looking into the sun or a welders arc so you have what happens is flash blindness and we lose our night vision for a bit," said Sgt. Larry Hustedde.

The suspect has been identified as 31-year-old Michael Alvarez.

"We're not talking about a kid pointing a laser, this guy really meant to do it at a police helicopter and thought he wouldn't get caught. He's on probation and had a warrant for car theft," said Hustedde.

After the flight officer recovered his vision from the laser he directed the pilot to the car with a searchlight and called for assistance from officers on the ground.

Officers say Alvarez began to lead them on a pursuit. He got off the freeway and began driving recklessly at a high speed near Downtown Fresno. Alvarez then crashed into a center divider near First and Floradora, disabling his car. He then began running into residential backyards but the flight officers were able to direct ground officers to him, who continued running and jumping fences until police officers tackled him.

Officers found the laser in the car as well as ammunition and a bb gun pistol.
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