CENTEREACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – More legal trouble may be on the horizon for Suffolk County’s so-called “Red Light Robin Hood.”
Authorities say a police helicopter was hit by a laser beam late Wednesday night, and the beam allegedly came from his Centereach home.
As Richard Rose reported, Stephen Ruth freely admitted he damaged the wiring on numerous red light cameras in Suffolk County in protest of the fines the cameras generated. He even pleaded guilty to causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
But now, police insist someone from his Centereach home aimed the dangerous laser beam at a police helicopter that was searching the area for a missing teen.
“Through good ole fashioned police work and the use of some very sophisticated technology, we have no doubt the laser came from that home,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said.
The police commissioner said officers rushed to the home but were refused entry.
By phone, Ruth told Rose he was not home and that no one aimed a laser beam from the property. He claims police are simply out to get him.
“I find it very suspicious the commissioner would accuse me when the same day I attempted to form an anti-corruption taskforce in the county,” he said.
One neighbor who called himself Ruth’s friend agreed he’s being targeted.
“You know what, after everything that’s gone on with him and the red lights, honestly I think they’d be looking to point something at him, personally,” said Greg Hannah. “I don’t think he did it.”
Another neighbor said he’s not sure who’s responsible, but he pointed to the dozens of laser pointing incidents that have blinded pilots approaching area airports and the potential danger of aiming a laser at a low-flying helicopter.
“It’s so close to the ground, if somebody was blinded, it wouldn’t give them much time to try and correct any issues. It could have landed on my house, landed on somebody else’s house in the neighborhood,” Jim Lantier said.
Meanwhile, police say the investigation is ongoing.
Ruth remains on probation after pleading guilty to vandalizing the red light cameras.
Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime punishable by thousands of dollars in fines or even prison time.