WEEKI WACHEE — A Hernando County man was arrested over the weekend after deputies say he shined a laser pointer at a helicopter searching for a missing 9-year-old.
Eric D. Harper, 35, told deputies he was sorry and "didn’t know it was a crime," according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Pilot Kyle Nugent and tactical flight officer B.J. Hart were inside the helicopter when the laser struck them five times around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. It affected their ability to see, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and prevented them from giving updated locations of the missing child who they had spotted shortly before the laser obstructed their vision.
"The extremely bright light shining directly at the helicopter interfered with the investigation and was a danger to those on board the helicopter as well as those on the ground," the Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.
Deputies said a laser viewed through its infrared equipment can severely damage the eye.
Deputies found Harper at his home on Darts Street and he was arrested on charges he pointed a laser light at a driver pilot. Deputies said he had a laser pen.
He was held at Hernando County jail on a $5,000 bail.