SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (NBC/SCSD VIDEO/KXAN) — A 19-year-old Florida man was arrested on charges of shining a laser light several times at two Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopters.
The video with this story is from the helicopter as deputies tried to identify the source of the blinding laser light.
Trevor Ragno, 19, was arrested Saturday and charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, a felony, and two counts of culpable negligence.
Officials said it was shortly before midnight when deputies on helicopter patrol reported that a green laser light was flashing through the cockpit.
The aircraft was flying at 800 feet at the time of the incident.
Another helicopter responded to the area and used infrared to direct deputies on the ground to the suspect’s home.
According to deputies, Ragno was seen on the pool deck shining the green laser light at them.
Three people outside the home also identified Ragno as the suspect, and he was then taken into custody.
Pointing a laser at a plane or helicopter has been a federal offense since 2012, punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In-Depth: Laser strikes against aircraft
U.S. Attorney’s Office reports laser-strike incidents are on the rise since the FBI and FAA began tracking them in 2005 — with 3,960 laser strikes reported nationwide in 2013.
Four Texas cities, including Austin, were among the top 20 when it came to reports of laser strikes against aircraft.
The FBI announced a national campaign June 3 to discourage people from pointing lasers at aircraft, even offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of people who commit the crime. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense.
There were 48 laser attacks reported in Austin in 2013, up from 21 the year before. It ranked as 18th most in the nation.
Houston recorded 126 strikes, Dallas-Fort Worth had 65 strikes and San Antonio reported 50. Of the four Texas metro areas, only DFW saw a decrease in strikes from 2012 to 2013.