SARASOTA -- Two brothers are facing charges after authorities say they pointed their laser lights at the Sarasota Sheriff's Office helicopter while it was on patrol.
Gary Bennington, 25, and Matthew Bennington, 22, are each charged with one felony charge of misuse of laser devices, as well as marijuana-related charges.
At about 11:30 p.m., two deputies were in flight patrolling the area near Interstate 75 and Porter Road when they noticed a green light hitting the helicopter, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff's Office news release. It happened several times and the red and green laser lights lit up the cockpit simultaneously.
The pilots were able to pinpoint where the lights were coming from in the 2400 block of Andansian Lane. Using thermal imaging, deputies were able to see the suspects in the back and side yards of the home. Each time they aimed their lasers at the helicopter, they would escape back into the home through the front door.
Patrol deputies went to the home, and spoke with the Bennington brothers, who initially denied having pointed the lasers at the helicopter. After they learned that it was caught on video, they confessed, according to the sheriff's office. Both lasers were found in the home's porch.
In addition to the misuse of a laser charge, deputies found nearly four grams of marijuana in a bag and a large marijuana plant in Matthew Bennington's bedroom so they are also facing drug charges.
The sheriff's office released a video that shows how the lasers cause a giant flash when they hit the camera on the bottom of the helicopter.
"A laser shining in the cockpit makes the pilot temporarily 'flashblind' and it takes time to regain their sight," the sheriff's office statement said. "A direct strike to the eye by a laser can cause permanent damage."