MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Monday night, around 9:30 p.m. the Manatee County Sheriff’s office said a pilot reported being hit by a laser as he was attempting to land at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
The Sheriff’s Office helicopter was in the air at the time and went to the area where the laser was reportedly seen.
“So our helicopter started going to the area where we thought the light was coming from, meanwhile we got another call that another person on the ground was hit with one of these lasers,” said Randy Warren with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
As the helicopter flew to the area, other deputies on the ground moved in and found a car in the area where the driver was pointing a laser.
“As one of our deputies was pulling up to what they thought was this vehicle, a light came across the hood and into the windshield,” Warren said. “So now this is the third time that somebody has been hit with these lasers.”
The man inside the car refused to get out and then pointed his laser at the Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
“It’s unfortunate because it’s happening to a lot of aircraft,” Warren added. “If you talk to people in the aviation world, they’ll tell you at airports it’s very common.”
A similar incident happened to the WFLA TV helicopter in 2022.
Former WFLA pilot Nick McCoy was at the controls at the time and said it can be a very dangerous situation.
“Once it hits your window, it definitely lights up the entire cabin and stuff and if it hits you in the eye, that’s pretty much it from there, you won’t be able to see if it hits you in the eye,” McCoy said.
In this case, Manatee County Deputies took Nicholas S. Clayton, 35, into custody and charged him with a felony. Clayton could face up to five years in prison for the offense.