Man with laser pointer arrested by Pasco sheriff helicopter pilots

- A Port Richey man is facing charges for pointing a red laser at a Pasco County Sheriff's Office helicopter on Tuesday night.

He didn't expect to see blue lights show up at his house shortly after.

Deputy Pilot Stephen Bowman and Pilot Tim Bullis said they were nearly blinded by a flashing red light while assisting deputies on a call for a barricaded subject just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.

"Once it hit me initially, it was painful," said Deputy Bowman.

Through their night vision camera, they spotted a man in his garage pointing a laser at their helicopter. The deputies said it's a common prank they encounter, but it can be life-threatening.

"If we're at a lower altitude and we get blinded momentarily, we could run into a tower, because we don't see it," explained Deputy Bullis.

The pilots were able to use the GPS on the iPad in their helicopter to pinpointed the man's address on Ironbark Drive in Port Richey.

They tried getting dispatchers to send a deputy to his home, but no one was available at the moment.

The pilots instead decided to land their helicopter in the empty parking lot of the Portuguese American Culture Society, about five blocks from the man's home.

Deputy Bowman hopped out of the helicopter and ran down to the house to arrest 27-year-old Ryan Fluke. Fluke seemed puzzled to see the pilot at his home.

"Once I took him into custody, initially he denied it," said Deputy Bowman. "Once I brought him back to the helicopter, we actually showed him the video of him in action, and then he immediately confessed."

Deputies said Fluke told them he didn't think his laser was strong enough to reach their helicopter. He was arrested and charged with misusing a laser light.

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