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HCSO Pilots Blinded by Green Laser During Search for Missing Woman

UPDATE: 4:33 p.m. - Immediately after publishing our article on the incident, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office shared details on the agency's Facebook Page. It is unknown why the information was withheld until we published our article. Here is the updated information:

Deputies arrested 44-year-old Robert Alan Harper of 8416 Dora Street. Harper turned over an air-soft pellet gun (similar to a rifle) which was equipped with a green laser, stating that is what he pointed at the aircraft.

Harper is charged with Misuse of Laser Lighting Device/Pointing Laser at a Pilot and is held on a $15,000 bond.

Pilots Roy McLaughlin and Steve Kling were treated at a local hospital and later released.

ORIGINAL STORY

SPRING HILL – Pointing a laser at an aircraft is no laughing matter but according to the FAA, there are an average of 10,000 incidents reported by commercial pilots every year. Unfortunately, only a handful of suspects are ever identified and prosecuted.

Last night, two Air Unit pilots with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office were targeted by a suspect in Spring Hill who shone a green laser directly at their eyes while they were conducting an unrelated search.

According to sources, the pilots had just arrived in the area of Prairie Lake to search for a woman who had been missing for more than a day. As soon as they arrived on the scene, the pilots reported being struck by a laser from a residence on Dora Street. The suspect continued the attack while the pilots guided deputies to the residence. Once they arrived, the suspect retreated inside the residence and refused to answer the door. It is unknown if the suspect was taken into custody.

Both pilots reported being unable to continue their search due to being blinded by the green laser. They immediately returned to base where they were able to land safely.

The Sheriff's Office has not responded to our inquiries about the laser incident or the missing woman.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It is unknown if a suspect has been identified or if charges are pending.

 

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