Joshua Chimarusti was arraigned on Monday following his arrest the previous week and could be allowed out on bail before his next hearing in early August.
The alleged incident unfolded on the night of 21 July when, according to a police report, “the crew of Ventura County Firehawk Copter 4 was conducting nighttime training operations in Lake Casitas when they became aware of gunfire directed at them”.
“The pilot of Copter 4 took evasive action and identified a suspect vehicle leaving the area at a high rate of speed. Copter 4 followed the suspect vehicle ... the suspect, who was later identified as Joshua Chimarusti, exited the vehicle, and fired additional shots from a handgun at Copter 4. Chimarusti ran away to avoid being arrested.”
Police conducted an extensive search on the night, including K9 units and SWAT officers, before Chimarustri “was ultimately located and taken into custody in the early morning hours of July 22, 2021,” the police report states. “The handgun Chimarusti used during both shootings was also located and seized as evidence.”
The helicopter did not sustain any damage during the incident, the report adds.
Mr Chimarusti was arrested and booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for attempted murder, assault with a firearm upon a peace officer or fire fighter, shooting at an occupied aircraft, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, prohibited person in possession of a firearm and carrying a loaded unregistered firearm.
After pleading not guilty on Monday, an official familiar with the case told The Independent, Mr Chimarusti’s bail was set at $50,000.
Ventura County announced in May that it had purchased two new Firehawk helicopters – former military Blackhawk helicopters that were converted for public safety use.
“They are equipped with a 1,000-gallon belly tank to drop water on fires, a rescue hoist, and night vision technology,” the press release stated.
“These new Firehawks are an important addition to the Aviation Unit’s fleet,” Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “They can carry almost three times as much water as our Vietnam-era ‘Huey’ helicopters, which significantly enhances our ability to fight wildfires and keep them small.”
According to the County release, the helicopters’ “primary mission will be assisting firefighters on the ground during a fire. The helicopters’ larger cabin space can carry up to 11 wildland firefighters and their gear, enabling more personnel and equipment to be flown to a fire in less time.”