Family: Man doesn’t deserve jail time in laser-pointing incident

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The family of an Austin man spoke to KXAN after he was arrested last week by federal agents for allegedly pointing a laser at an Austin Police helicopter.

Gabriel Ruedas, Jr., 25, is facing five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His family says he did not commit the crime on purpose, and doesn’t belong in jail. They say he is a father that doesn’t deserve to miss his daughter’s first birthday.

“Just to see the look in his eyes,” said Rita Young, Ruedas’ mother. “To see his baby there and she’s reaching out for him, and he can’t get her.”

GOING IN-DEPTH // A National Problem

  • The FBI announced a national campaign Tuesday to discourage people from pointing lasers at aircraft, even offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of individuals who commit the crime. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense.
  • Four Texas cities, including Austin, were among the top 20 when it came to reports of laser strikes against aircraft.

He couldn’t hold her because he was in a courtroom Tuesday, facing federal charges.

“This is his main priority,” Ruedas’ fiance, Veronica Ramirez, said of his child. “If he would have known this was going to cause him to miss everything, it could be that serious, he would have never done it.”

The alleged laser attack happened in February.

“He was walking through a trail and found a laser and didn’t think anything of it, just like anyone else would see on the ground,” Young said. “He picked it up and shined it around like, ‘What is this?’ And then next thing you know, Austin police is right there and came and asked, ‘Who has a laser here?’”

When officers approached, he handed over the laser, the family said. And for three months, he continued his daily routine. But now, he sits in jail after being arrested by the FBI and deemed a flight risk.

“He could’ve moved out of the house he was living in,” his mother said. “He could’ve stopped his job, or took off with his baby, or left with fiancé and the baby, and been gone. He didn’t do that.”

“He really wants to be here for her,” Ramirez added. “I need his help, I cant do this by myself, without him.”

His family says he’s been fully cooperative with authorities, and until proven guilty, doesn’t deserve to spend another night apart from his family.

Ruedas’ remains in federal custody and his next court hearing has not yet been announced.

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