TAMPA — Federal authorities have opened a criminal case against a Pasco County man accused of shining a laser in December at sheriff's pilots who responded by landing their helicopter and making an arrest.
Ryan Fluke, 27, of Port Richey, appeared in federal court Monday on a charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, punishable by up to five years in prison.
A judge released him on a $10,000 bond into the custody of his mother, according to records filed Tuesday.
He was initially arrested Dec. 5 by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, after an aviation unit reported a blinding red flash of light from the ground.
"I got a guy lasering us pretty bad," co-pilot Stephen Bowman said in a cockpit video later made public.
A federal grand jury indicted Fluke on Jan. 24. He has pleaded not guilty to a similar charge in state court.