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Federal Prosecutors Charge Man Accused of Flying Drone Over Levi’s Stadium

Federal prosecutors have filed charges against the man accused of flying a drone over Levi’s Stadium and Oakland Coliseum in November 2017 and dropping dozens of flyers down on fans.

Tracy Michael Mapes, 55, is expected to make an appearance in court on June 4. According to the complaint filed with the United States District Court in San Jose on Tuesday, Mapes faces one charge of “Violation of National Defense Airspace.”

As The Santa Clara Weekly reported when the incident happened, on Nov. 26, 2017, Mapes flew a drone over Levi’s Stadium while the 49ers were playing the Seattle Seahawks.

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“Mapes also modified the aircraft by adding a compartment underneath its belly to carry a payload,” according to the complaint. “While flying over the spectators at Levi’s Stadium, the aircraft carried dozens of flyers. Mapes opened the compartment remotely to drop…flyers onto spectators in the stadium.”

The flyers said in part, “For more than 20 years, prostitutes and felons have been infiltrated into America’s newsrooms and local municipal politics.”

Investigators say following the incident at Levi’s Stadium, Mapes drove to Oakland and flew his drone over Oakland Coliseum and dropped the same flyers down on the crowd at the Oakland Raiders game against the Denver Broncos.

Deputies with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Santa Clara Police Department, followed the drone from the stadium.

“They found Mapes wearing the retrofitted helmet and using the attached iPad to pilot the aircraft,” said the written complaint. “The drone then descended and landed next to Mapes. When deputies asked Mapes if he had permission from the Raiders or the NFL to fly over the stadium, he responded, ‘Probably not.’ Mapes also admitted to having come from the 49ers game…Mapes stated that he believed his actions of flying a [unmanned aircraft system (UAS)] over the stadiums and distributing his message outweighed any repercussions.”

As part of the case against Mapes, investigators say when he registered the drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Feb. 1, 2016, he agreed to a number of safety guidelines including, “I will not fly over groups of people,” “I will not fly over stadiums and sports events,” and “I will fly within visual line of sight.”

The FAA also puts temporary flight restrictions in place any time a stadium hosts an event with 30,000 or more people in attendance. Investigators say by flying over Levi’s Stadium and Oakland Coliseum during the games, Mapes violated that temporary flight restriction.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Mapes may also be behind a series of flyer drops in Sacramento.

On May 3, 2019 Mapes reportedly dropped flyers on a Farm-to-Fork event at Sacramento State University. Some of the flyers had a copyright symbol and the name Tracy Mapes on it.

On social media, it was reported that similar flyers were dropped at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento that same evening. That’s where an Ariana Grande concert was taking place.

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