Florida man who pointed laser light at police helicopter sentenced to federal prison

A Florida man is facing nearly two years in federal prison for shining a light in the wrong place.

In December 2017, Ryan Fluke, then 27, aimed a laser pointer at a low-flying helicopter.

The helicopter was operated by Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were attempting to aid ground units in an encounter with a barricaded suspect, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

Video captured from the helicopter showed 10 flashes of the laser, according to ABC news.

Temporarily blinded and disoriented, the deputies abandoned the operation and landed the aircraft in a parking lot.

Pilot Stephen Bowman then walked to Fluke’s residence and arrested him.

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Police said that Fluke at first denied committing the crime. He confessed after being shown video of the incident, commenting that it was “for fun” and that he didn’t realize lasers were dangerous.

Fluke plead guilty to the third degree felony in November and was sentenced this week to 21 months in federal prison.

The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Last month, a Pinellas County man was arrested for the same crime after he shone a laser pointer at a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. He was apprehended by deputies and faces a felony charge.

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Laser strikes on aircrafts are on the rise, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA received 6,754 reports of laser strikes in 2017, a 250 percent increase since the agency began tracking the incidents in 2010.

“Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations and may be carrying hundreds of passengers,” FAA says.

If injury is caused as a result of shining a laser light at a person operating a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft, the crime is upgraded to a second degree felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to Florida law.