Dec 7, 2017, 6:10 AM ET

Police land helicopter, chase down suspect after being flashed with laser

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Two police helicopter pilots in Pasco County, Florida landed in a community center parking lot and chased down a suspect this week after he allegedly aimed a red laser at them from the ground, blinding them temporarily, police said Wednesday.

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office pilots Stephen Bowman and Tim Bullis were assisting deputies on the ground with a barricaded suspect call on Tuesday evening when the man began to flash the bright laser at them, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

“The suspect aiming the laser at the aircraft was blinding the pilot and causing a hazard while interfering with the mission of the aircraft,” the statement said. “The pilot was forced to disengage from the primary mission and address the laser suspect.”

PHOTO: Police arrested Ryan Fluke, 27, for Misuse of laser lighting devices on Tuesday.Pasco Sheriffs Office
Police arrested Ryan Fluke, 27, for Misuse of laser lighting devices on Tuesday.

In a cockpit video released by the sheriff’s office, the pilots said they counted a total of 10 laser beam flashes.

“It blinded us for a couple of seconds. Extremely painful,” Bowman added in an on-camera interview with ABC affiliate WFTS. "At night, low and making turns and you get struck by a laser, couple seconds and you can fall a couple hundred feet."

Bowman, a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s air unit, said there were no officers available on the ground to investigate the incident, so he landed the plane in the Portuguese American Cultural Association parking lot and did it himself.

PHOTO: Police arrested Ryan Fluke, 27, for Misuse of laser lighting devices on Tuesday.Pasco Sheriffs Office
Police arrested Ryan Fluke, 27, for Misuse of laser lighting devices on Tuesday.

It wasn’t long before he had arrested a suspect, Ryan Fluke, 27, for misuse of laser lighting devices.

Police said Fluke initially denied any wrongdoing, but he later confessed to the crime. He was released from the Pasco County Jail Wednesday on a $5,000 bail, according to court documents. It was not clear if he had obtained an attorney.

“He said that it was ‘for fun.’ He said that he didn’t realize that a laser can travel a long distance even though we were only about 800 feet away from him,” Bowman said.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony punishable by five years in jail, according to the FBI.

The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration have been tracking laser strikes since 2005 and they even launched an initiative to crack down on “lasing.”

In 2014, the bureau said it would offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.

News - Police land helicopter, chase down suspect after being flashed with laser

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  • frederick marc

    Cops should just give him a first-hand experience on how they affect people's eyesight.

  • Lifeishortgetaladder.

    (read in voice of Lennie )
    just out walking around with my laser pointer thingy.. dum da dum do do dum OH LOOK GEORGE! ! A low hovering machine !!!! lets see what happens when i point my laser mathingy at it..
    multiple times.. it might be a UFO, and I wil communicate with the aliens first and ask them if they have rabbits!!!

  • Brian 9876

    He should be given half of a helicopter ride.

  • Quantez Williams

    This guy has been arrested 12 times, so this was definitely no fluke.

  • Dicazi

    BS
    You'd have to be a hermit to not know how dangerous lasers can be to pilots.
    Huge fine. No reason taxpayers should pay for him to sleep and eat for 5 years.
    Huuuge fine.

  • reality25

    Florida. The land of sun and excitement.

  • Andy S

    Spicolli?

  • Know 'Em

    Flori-DUH! Did he remove his MAGA hat for the booking photo?

  • Paulie

    The boy's gonna need a soap on a rope shortly.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Delivers pizza and tends bar, when not trying to kill people.

  • xtch3

    GOOD! Hope they keep him locked up forever.
    Five years is way too short.

  • Nicholas Ingraham

    Per his Facebook page, laser-boy states that he's worked as a bartender and a pizza deliverer. He also boasts that he "lived like a king" when in high school.

  • Hank Kelly

    He looks every bit like a dumb goober.

  • Harry The Handsome Butcher

    If his defense is that he didn't know lasers traveled a long way he needs to be euthanized to protect the gene pool from that type of cancerous stupidity

  • katerant

    Florida sure is dominating the 'strange news' categories lately.

  • xGreenxDragonx

    Literally the walking stereotype of trailer trash. Nice.

  • HamburgerHelperAgain

    Do these goons often take their shirts off prior to being arrested?

  • rwebbs

    "Bowman, a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s air unit, said there were no officers available on the ground to investigate the incident, so he landed the plane in the Portuguese American Cultural Association parking lot and did it himself." Proofreading is important. You just introduced a plane into a story about helicopters. How is a plane landing in a parking lot?

  • mik8888

    Yeah, that guy sure looks like a fine upstanding citizen, don't he...

    Donnie, are ya gonna pardon him...???

  • 3 Wise Men

    Just one day I'd like to read the news without another story about a "Florida man". Is that asking too much?

  • Noon

    Don’t lasers come with information in the instruction booklet that it can blind people ? It’s common knowledge anyways. Anyone caught pointing lasers at pilots or drivers should be put in jail for attempted murder. The same should be done to drone operators who interfere with aircraft.

  • Siestasis 42

    Another loser in FL. Lock him up give him a haircut, shave and bath.

  • John Barron

    More evidence that you cannot fix stupid.

  • Edup McD

    Fun?
    Now it looks like big time trouble, bonehead ...
    This guy & others like him can't resist making their life harder ...

  • error_does not compute

    Doofus

  • JusticeOnTap

    What a disgusting LOSER!

    This filth said it was "just for fun". Sure.

    Hopefully, when this clown winds up in prison, he'll be raped and the rapist will say to him:

    "It was just for fun"

  • Thomas

    1. You gotta be a special type of dumb to aim a laser at a flight crew
    2. How dumb can you be to stand around and wait for a helicopter to land and the crew to come after you?

    This guy is dumber than a box of dumb stuff.

  • Serita none

    One of America's finest.

  • Citizen123

    Stupid people doing stupid things putting lives at risk. Make an example of this idiot!

  • Don'tBotherMe

    I might expect this of a seven year-old . . . not 27. I hope he gets the maximum jail time.

  • End of Life Ritual

    Without even seeing his photo, I knew what I would find.

    Pure WT

  • JuPMod

    Good. We do not need to one day have a tragedy if one of these punks blinds an airline pilot and the plane suddenly crashes, especially if an airline is coming in for a landing. Why do these people even today think it is 'fun' to flash a laser at a plane when they should know by now these lasers can blind the pilot(s)? Jerks.

  • TexasVulcan

    Throw the book at this guy. There can be no excuse for this. I wonder when pilots will have to begin wearing protective eye gear. But that might be a problem at night.

  • Ideology

    He thought it was a Russian invasion. He's a hero! Remember Red Dawn.

  • Newsman670

    Fluke should be thrown in jail for at least five years. He's old enough to know what he's doing to the pilots with the laser.