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Police seek suspect after laser pointed into airplane cockpits

Authorities are investigating reports of someone pointing a green laser Tuesday night into the cockpits of two airplanes in mid-flight, and the windows of several cars in Newton.

Newton police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker was told by a driver that a man was intentionally shining a green laser pen light through windows of cars on Sumner Street shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday. The suspect was described by the driver as a man in his late teens or early 20s who was wearing a bright orange coat, Apotheker said.

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Several hours later, Newton police were notified by the Federal Aviation Administration of similar incidents in the sky.

Two pilots reported their cockpits were illuminated with green light from somewhere below them within 15 minutes of each other, said Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman.

A Delta Air Lines pilot reported the light at 8:30 p.m., while the plane was climbing at 14,000 feet. The plane was 18 miles west of Logan International Airport and heading toward Atlanta, Peters said.

The second report came from the pilot of a JetBlue aircraft heading toward Boston whose cockpit was hit by the green light while flying over Providence at about 8:45 p.m. Rhode Island State Police were notified.

“Pilots were able to get a location of where the laser was coming from and tracked it to the area of Forte Park along the river,” Apotheker said today in a statement. “Several units checked the area with negative results.”

Officials have said that any brief distraction in an airplane cockpit during a critical time, such as takeoff or landing, can be catastrophic.

Newton detectives and the FAA are investigating whether the incidents were related.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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