Hernando County Sheriff’s Office was out in full force after receiving reports of a missing 9-year-old child. Employing the use of a helicopter in their search efforts, deputies were able to locate the child, however, the pilot reports that he had difficulty updating ground units on the child’s location because an area resident shined a laser pointer directly at the aircraft multiple times.
“The extremely bright light shining directly at the chopper interfered with the investigation and was a danger to those on board the helicopter as well as those on the ground,” the sheriff’s office told Fox 4 News. It was also noted that the Infrared (IR) and FLIR equipment used by the high-powered laser pointer could have caused serious damage to the pilot’s eyes.
After ground units took the child into custody, police then focused on the area the bright beam had originated. Police were able to locate a Weeki Wachee man, identified as 35-year-old Eric D. Harper. Police questioned the man on whether he had been outside or using a laser pointer that evening. Harper admitted to deputies that he had been outside using his “laser pen” which he then showed to police.
Harper apologized to the officers, claiming that he didn’t realize that shining the high-powered laser at any form of aircraft was a crime. ABC Action News reports that Harper was arrested and charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot or driver.
Harper spent most of Thanksgiving weekend behind bars until a judge ordered his bond to be set at $5,000.