Deputies assigned to the Patrol Operations Bureau arrested an Illinois man for two counts of felony Misuse of a Laser Lighting Device, after he illuminated an airborne Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
According to deputies, on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at approximately 10:40 p.m., the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was airborne over Fort De Soto Park, in the area of 3500 Pinellas Bayway South, when a green laser lighting device was shined at the helicopter multiple times. Flight deputies maintained visual on the suspect inside Fort de Soto Park and directed patrol deputies on the ground to the suspect’s location.
Deputies made contact with 32-year-old Michael Scott, who eventually admitted to illuminating the helicopter with the laser lighting device. The laser used by Scott was recovered, which had his name on it.
The pilot of the helicopter reported that the laser was pointed in his eyes multiple times. He experienced minor pain and landed the helicopter in an open field at Fort de Soto Park.
The pilots suffered eye injuries and were transported to Bayfront St. Petersburg for evaluation. They will require follow up with an physician. Due to injuries, the charges were upgraded to a 2nd degree felony.
Per Florida State Statute, it is a third-degree felony for 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.
Scott was arrested and charged with two counts of felony Misuse of a Laser Lighting Device and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without incident.
The investigation continues.