Sonora, CA — A pilot who worked with the Tuolumne Narcotics Team is being remembered for his bravery following word that he was killed while overseas in Iraq.
Art Laguna was flying a helicopter for Blackwater Aviation, a private security company that does missions in and around Baghdad.
According to information provided by the Tuolumne County Sheriff´s Department, Blackwater pilots act as a quick reaction strike force. Only the bravest and best pilots are chosen to fly for Blackwater. They go into what is considered the “Red Zone” every day.
On Tuesday of last week, Laguna was responding to a particular trouble spot to assist an aircraft that was taking massive rounds of enemy fire. Laguna went up as a wing man for his brother Dan, another pilot. Both helicopters were shot down almost immediately.
Dan was able to land his aircraft and then take off again. Art´s ship went down into an alleyway in Baghdad. He wasn´t able to take off again. When Art´s ship was later found, it was discovered that he and four men with him had been shot after the helicopter had landed.
Laguna is being remembered by the Tuolumne Narcotics Team as a “phenomenal pilot,” and one of the best at spotting hard to find marijuana gardens. He flew for the National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, and in that capacity, flew many missions with the T.N.T. unit. Laguna lived with his wife and four children in North Highlands. A funeral is scheduled for this Friday.
Written by BJ Hansen