VENTURA COUNTY

Man Accused of Shooting at Ventura County Firefighting Helicopter During a Training Flight

The helicopter crew was conducting nighttime training operations in Lake Casitas

Ventura County Fire Department

Authorities arrested a man Thursday after they said he fired gunshots at a firefighting helicopter during nighttime training exercises in Southern California.

No one aboard the helicopter — called Ventura County Firehawk Copter 4 — was injured, and the aircraft was not struck, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

The suspect, 44-year-old Joshua Chimarusti, was booked on suspicion of attempted murder and several firearms offenses. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday, and it was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Joshua Chimarusti, 44, is pictured in this photo provided by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

The helicopter crew was flying around 9:15 p.m. Wednesday in Lake Casitas, about 80 miles north of Los Angeles, for training operations, the sheriff's office said. The crew realized there was gunfire aimed at them, and the pilot took evasive actions and saw a vehicle speeding away.

The helicopter followed the vehicle to the community of Oak View until it stopped, and Chimarusti got out and fired more shots at the chopper, authorities said.

Chimarusti then ran away, prompting an hourslong search by sheriff's deputies, K-9 units, a small SWAT unit and another helicopter. He was found early Thursday, and the handgun he's accused of using also was recovered.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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