‘Enraged’ birthday boy arrested for shooting sheriff’s helicopter after party explodes

A Southern California man fired a rifle multiple times at a law enforcement helicopter after his birthday party ended earlier this year, police said.

Justin Derek Jennings, 39, of Laguna Niguel, was indicted by a federal grand jury for attempting to damage, destroy or disable an aircraft on March 9. The man had been drinking and became angry, according to court documents in the case.

As the episode intensified, those at the party, including family members, left to return home. After the majority of guests left, police said the man took a rifle out of his safe and fired an entire magazine of ammunition inside the residence.

The rest of the guests fled the area and contacted authorities about the incident. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene with several deputies and a police helicopter.

A helicopter involved in the search for hikers near Lake Havasu City. A man in Laguna Niguel, California, is in custody after attempting to shoot up an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. (Mohave County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook)

After Jennings noticed the helicopter circling the house, he went to the second floor and began shooting into the sky with a rifle. He fired while the helicopter was visible to him. Federal prosecutors said the shooting lasted about 20 minutes.

Jennings then spoke with an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, left the house and turned himself in. Police entered the residence and found two revolvers, two handguns, two rifles and several rounds of ammunition, investigators said.

Bullet casings were seen on the floor and officials also took a box of ammunition that was on a couch and under the window where the man allegedly tried to shoot.

If convicted, Jennings faces 20 years in federal prison. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office previously charged Jennings in connection with the incident, but the case was dismissed so the federal case could be filed.

Authorities arraigned Jennings in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana Monday afternoon, where he pleaded not guilty to the change.

A federal judge ordered him held without bail and his trial is scheduled for August 5.