CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man was arrested early Sunday for shining a laser at a law enforcement helicopter as the crew was monitoring a controlled burn, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.
The deputies in the helicopter had spotted the flames near a home in unincorporated Clearwater at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. They reported the fire to the Sheriff’s Office and then circled the scene, waiting to hear whether the fire posed any threat.
As the helicopter hovered, someone standing just outside the screened-in porch of a home near the fire shined a laser light at the helicopter three times, deputies said.
“He’s got a red laser, and I got the guy on camera right here,” a deputy said in a Sheriff’s Office video of the incident posted to Youtube Sunday.
Patrol deputies responded to the home, 1940 Cove Lane near Bellair and Belcher roads, where they found Brian Harting.
Harting, 48, admitted to shining the light but said he didn’t know it was illegal, deputies said. Lasers can interfere with a pilot’s sight, authorities say, and can damage the eye if viewed through infrared equipment.
Harting was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, a third-degree felony.
He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and remained there Sunday on $5,000 bail.
Harting had been arrested by Clearwater police a week earlier, Feb. 9, on a charge of heroin possession and was released on bail of $2,000.
Deputies said that the laser, which was recovered by the Sheriff’s Office, came with a warning label: “Never aim at aircraft.”.
Contact Kirby Wilson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8793. Follow @kirbywtweets.