Police Helicopter Crew Lands In Parking Lot, Chases Down Florida Man Shining Laser Pointer
That’s good hustle.
Of all the idiotic behaviors out there, shining a laser pointer at aircraft in the sky is high up on the list of Things You Shouldn't Do. Not only is it incredibly dangerous (not to mention potentially blinding) for the crew on board, but there's always the chance that you'll accidentally target a police helicopter whose pilots will come after you with a vengeance.
ABC News reports that an air unit with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office was monitoring an operation involving a barricaded suspect on Tuesday night when someone on the ground began shining a laser pointer at the helicopter, which was hovering at about 800 feet. The two pilots on board, officers Stephen Bowman and Tim Bullis, told ABC affiliate WFTS that the beam blinded them for several seconds and was "extremely painful."
Eyesight recovered, the two realized the man with the laser was standing in front of a nearby house. With all the local ground units still occupied, Bowman made the call to land the chopper in an empty community center parking lot and pursue the suspect himself. We'd love to see the look on his face when he realized the bird was coming after him, but alas, we'll have to settle for his awkward shirtless mugshot.
Bowman and Bullis quickly tracked down 27-year-old Ryan Fluke, who denied the charges at first before admitting he did it "for fun" and didn't realize the laser beam would actually reach the helicopter. He was arrested and charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, and later released on a $5,000 bail.
It's safe to say he got off easy—as Bowman points out in the video, blinding a pilot with a laser in the middle of any low-altitude maneuver can easily cause a crash, regardless of the type of aircraft involved. That's why doing so is a felony that will earn you up to 5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.