DOJ: Salem man pleads guilty after ‘buzzing’ firefighters with drone in 2019

Roanoke Valley News

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — A Salem man has pleaded guilty to a felony charge after “buzzing” a group of first responders with a drone more than two years ago, according to officials.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says the drone flew directly at firefighters near a Salem fire station on July 25, 2019. The drone came so close that the first responders had to dive out of the way before the drone crashed inside the fire station’s garage.

According to a statement released by the DOJ on Friday, Nov. 12, James Russell Weeks III pleaded guilty to operating an unregistered aircraft.

Officials say any drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds is considered an “unmanned aircraft” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which means it needs to be registered before anyone can operate it. However, Weeks did register his drone with the FAA.

Weeks faces up to three years in prison for the offense, the DOJ says. There is no word on when he is set to be sentenced.

This case was reportedly investigated by the Salem Police Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

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