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Sheriff’s helicopter pilot lands to detain man with laser pointer

The light was causing enough of a hazard that pilot Stephen Bowman pulled away from his assignment and started tracking the person behind the laser

By Samantha Putterman
The Bradenton Herald

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot decided to land the aircraft Tuesday night after a man kept aiming a laser pointer at him.

Around 10:50 p.m. that night, pilot Stephen Bowman was blinded by the laser while he assisted with a barricaded suspect call in Port Richey, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.

The helicopter was providing cover for ground units when it was targeted by the laser pointer.

“It blinded us temporarily for a couple of seconds — extremely painful,” Bowman told Bay News 9. “Once we came to, we saw a couple more flashes from the laser.”

The light was causing enough of a hazard that Bowman pulled away from the assignment and started tracking the person behind the laser. He found an empty parking lot to land and walked over to the suspect’s residence. There, he detained 27-year-old Ryan Fluke.

“I immediately took him into custody and then that’s when he was a little confused on who I was,” Bowman said to the outlet. “I explained that I was a deputy pilot for the sheriff’s office, and he wanted to know where my helicopter was.”

Fluke was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony. Bowman said Fluke apologized and said he didn’t realize lasers were dangerous.

©2017 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

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