A woman accused of shining lights late last year at Navy aircraft conducting night training over Virginia Beach used a makeshift device to target the planes, authorities believe.
Lou Ella Moore attached flashlights to a garden rake, Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesperson Jeff Houston told Navy Times Wednesday.
Moore, 64, was arrested Friday by NCIS in the 4400 block of Blackwater Road and faces a class-6 felony charge of interfering with or endangering aircraft on Dec. 16, 2019.
She was released on a $1,500 secured bond and is barred from leaving Virginia. She faces a preliminary hearing set for April 30 in Virginia Beach General District Court, according to online court records.
NCIS received complaints in December from Navy leaders that someone was flashing lights at aircraft from Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress, Houston said.
“I can tell you that they were complaining about it, so it happened more than once,” he said.
Fentress, a rural airfield in nearby Chesapeake, is operated by Naval Air Station Oceana and aviators often practice aircraft carrier landings there.
Houston said Moore’s home is located near the airfield and a public records search by Navy Times confirmed its location.
Investigators observed Moore in her backyard on Dec. 16 targeting aircraft with the makeshift device and took their case to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney.
“Such activity is a major concern for pilots who may be disoriented or injured by lasers and other lights being shined into their eyes,” Houston said.
He said he did not know why Moore allegedly targeted the aircraft and her attorney, Richmond-based Vaughan C. Jones, did not return a message left for him Wednesday by Navy Times.
Macie P. Allen, a spokesperson for the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney, declined comment.
Navy leaders from Oceana have campaigned about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft, particularly around the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, a major tourist destination.
In 2012, Robert Bruce Jr., of Virginia Beach resident, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to one charge of interfering with the operation of Naval aircraft in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, according to The Virginian-Pilot and federal court records.
Bruce pointed a laser at Oceana-based fighter pilots on multiple occasions, including during landing practice, and someone using his phone number called the base’s flight operations and concerns line repeatedly to complain about jet noise and threatened violence, including "taking potshots at your [expletive] precious jets,” records indicated.
Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.