AUBURNDALE, Fla. (WFLA) – Two men are behind bars after deputies say a laser light was pointed at a Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter early Thursday morning.
The helicopter was flying over Recker Highway in Auburndale just before 4 a.m. Thursday. According to deputies, a laser light shined in the cockpit 12 times. At one point, the light directly hit the pilot’s eyes, the sheriff’s office says.
“If a pilot is wearing night-vision assistance while flying, the laser light gets magnified and can seriously injure his or her eyes,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement, adding that the pilot was not injured.
A flight observer who was in the helicopter was able to spot the man shining the light. The observer sent a description and location to patrol units on the ground.
Deputies were able to track down 33-year-old John Marsh. He was arrested and charged with unlawful use of a laser light device, a felony charge.
“Aiming lasers at aircraft is reckless and dangerous. Not only does it put the lives of everyone in the aircraft in danger, it also endangers people on the ground should that aircraft crash,” Sheriff Judd said.
Deputies say Marsh also had an active warrant for violation of probation for petit theft. His criminal history includes nine felonies and 10 misdemeanors.
His companion, 33-year-old David Dade, was also arrested on a warrant out of Hillsborough County for failure to appear for possession of a controlled substance.