Florida

The warning label on laser said ‘Never aim at aircraft.’ Florida man ignored it, cops say

Florida man arrested after pointing laser at helicopter

A Clearwater man was charged with felony misuse of a laser lighting device after deputies say he pointed the red light at an airborne Sheriff’s Office helicopter Feb 17, 2019.
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A Clearwater man was charged with felony misuse of a laser lighting device after deputies say he pointed the red light at an airborne Sheriff’s Office helicopter Feb 17, 2019.

The warning was clear: “Never aim at aircraft.”

One Florida man learned the hard way that it wasn’t there for decoration.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that Brian Harting, 48, was charged with a felony after using his red laser to point at a helicopter.

According to the sheriff’s office, a helicopter was in the air about 2:30 a.m. Sunday when it spotted a controlled fire in unincorporated Clearwater. The pilot circled the area while patrol units responded to check on the fire.

“While the helicopter was in-flight, a subject standing in a backyard of a residence, southwest of the controlled fire, shined a red laser lighting device at the aircraft three times,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Video from the helicopter shows what appears to be the shadow of a man in a backyard. The light can also be seen in the video.

The Flight Unit was able to direct patrol deputies to a home in unincorporated Clearwater, the sheriff’s office said.

Harting “admitted to illuminating helicopter with the laser lighting device and stated he was unaware it was illegal,” according to the news release.

Florida law says “any person who knowingly and willfully shines, points, or focuses the beam of a laser lighting device on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft,” can be charged with a third degree felony.

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.


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