Drone Geek Busted for Flying Into Police Helicopter's Path
A drone operator was convicted after his device interfered with the flight path of a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter, the City Attorney's Office announced this week.
Last month the L.A. City Council approved a new ordinance that outlaws flying drones over a wide swath of the city — within five miles of an airport or within 25 feet of a person. The law means you can't fly your toy in Venice, Windsor Hills or parts of Mar Vista.
The rule wasn't really needed in this case.
"While any new drone-specific legislation could be used in the future," City Attorney's Office spokesman Frank Mateljan told us, "we have charges available now that we can use to prosecute as evidenced by this case."
Case in point: Martin Sheldon, 57, pleaded no contest to one count of obstructing a police officer, the office said in a statement. No special drone law was needed.
Sheldon got three years of probation, 30 days of community service and a ban on operating any remote-controlled aerial device during the probation period, prosecutors said. He also had to hand over his $6,000 drone, which cops took anyway.
According to City Attorney's officials, the defendant's drone interfered with the flight path of an LAPD chopper as it circled in a search for an assault-with-a-deadly-weapon suspect in Hollywood Aug. 27.
The helicopter flew away as a precaution, and officers on the ground tracked the drone's operator to a nearby parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, prosecutors said.
"Defendant Sheldon was apprehended at the scene and the drone was confiscated," the office stated. "Video footage from the device showed the drone fly toward the police helicopter, as well as its spotlight, and numerous police units below."
City Attorney Mike Feuer said justice has been served.
"Interfering with a police investigation through the careless operation of a drone places our officers and the public at serious risk," he said. "This conviction sends a strong message that we will hold those who recklessly operate these devices accountable for their actions."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.