Authorities have revealed chilling new details about an alleged murder suspect from Alaska who was plotting elaborate attacks against law enforcement using high-powered lasers capable of causing permanent eye damage or blindness.
According to an indictment unsealed yesterday, Robert Jay Harris had meticulously planned attacks targeting the sheriff’s office in Polk County, Florida as part of a deranged scheme for revenge. Harris is accused of killing two women in Alaska last year and had been on the run from authorities for months.
The Department of Justice says Harris had purchased several lasers on the internet, including handheld laser devices with output power up to 5,000 milliwatts – strong enough to cause permanent eye injuries even from distances of over a mile away. He had conducted tests to measure the effective range and power of these lasers, noting results in a journal alongside detailed plans to blind law enforcement officers and detonate explosive devices as a distraction.
Extensive Research on Lasers and Their Effects
Court documents reveal Harris spent weeks researching the effects of lasers on eyes and testing how to maximize damage. He downloaded technical manuals and studied published research on wavelengths absorbed by the retina. Prosecutors allege his goal was to use the high-powered lasers to incapacitate and permanently blind targeted law enforcement officers during traffic stops or while responding to callouts so he could ambush them while they were disoriented.
The indictment states Harris “intended to cause permanent impairment of vision and bodily injury” to officers from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which was leading the manhunt for him in connection with the Alaska double homicide case. His journal entries showed he planned to lure officers to secluded rural areas before setting up laser guided attacks.
Concerning Social Media Posts Sparked Initial FBI Investigation
The disturbing plot first came to light after Harris began posting concerning messages on social media platforms openly discussing his plans and desire for revenge against law enforcement. He posted laser product recommendations and manuals on laser safety equipment to forums and private messaging groups.
One post in particular stated “All it takes is a quick trigger pull and a few moments of blindness is guaranteed,” which prompted other users to alert authorities. The FBI was able to trace the social media activity and online purchases back to Harris, launching a nationwide manhunt and the ensuing investigation that uncovered the chilling scope of his plans.
“This was one of the most complex and resource-intensive investigations I’ve led during my career with the FBI,” said Tampa Field Division Special Agent in Charge Michael F. McPherson at a press conference. “Harris left an extensive digital trail exposing his depraved mindset and detailed preparations. There is no question that his laser guided attack plans posed a grave threat to law enforcement and the public.”
Arrest Averts Potentially Deadly Ambush on Officers
Using cell phone records and surveillance video from the numerous laser product shipments, authorities were ultimately able to track Harris’ location to a remote campsite in the woods of northern Manitoba, Canada last month. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police SWAT team made contact and successfully took Harris into custody without incident, preventing his planned ambush with high-powered lasers.
Harris is now in federal custody awaiting extradition back to the US where he will face charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for the Alaska double homicide in addition to federal charges related to his cross-border laser attack plots. If convicted on all counts, he faces life in prison or even the death penalty.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd praised the collaborative law enforcement effort that led to Harris’ arrest. “This was one sick individual with a twisted obsession to harm my deputies. I’m proud of the diligent investigative work that protected our communities,” he stated.
The case highlights the growing threat from accessible laser technologies falling into the wrong hands. While most are intended for educational use, proper safety protocols and oversight are still needed to curb their misuse for harmful purposes like Harris allegedly planned against law enforcement. The DOJ investigation into his disturbing laser guided attack plots continues.