Police catch man point laser at plane as they investigate 40 incidents, Florida cops say

Dozens of flights were subjected to laser pointer strikes as they approached a Tampa airport over the last five months, and investigators suspected one person was responsible for many of those incidents, Florida authorities said.

Now, a 47-year-old man has been charged.

The Tampa Police Department and the FBI began looking into the laser incidents in April, the police department said in an April 25 news release.

“Since January 1st, 2024, TPD has investigated over 40 incidents where lasers were pointed at incoming flights, posing a serious danger to pilots and passengers,” the department said. “The investigation narrowed the suspect location to a specific area in South Tampa.”

They began staking out the home and gathering evidence, until shortly after midnight on April 25, officers on the ground and from the air caught him in the act, police said.

Authorities said he pointed a blue laser at a Jet Blue flight.

“And again, 100% confirmed blue light was just shining in the air,” someone is heard saying in footage released by the police department.

The pilot confirmed seeing the laser but didn’t think it was intentional at the time, according to the footage from that night released by police. The plane landed safely, police said.

As the man returned to his home, law enforcement moved in and searched him. He didn’t have a laser on him, but when they searched his home they found two lasers, law enforcement said.

He told police he had pointed a laser at a plane at that time, according to court documents.

In the first three months of 2024, 3,431 incidents of lasers pointed at aircraft have been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. Of those reports, 58 came from the Tampa International Airport.

The man was arrested and charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, which is a felony in Florida. His attorney information is not available in Hillsborough County case records.

“These laser strikes are not only illegal but also incredibly reckless behavior that could have resulted in a tragic accident,” Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said.

Pointing a laser at a pilot can obscure their vision and disorient them, which can increase risk to passengers as well, according to the FAA.

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