Pasco Sheriff's pilot lands helicopter, confronts laser pointer suspect

By Josh Rojas and Digital Media Staff,
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 6:24 PM EST

A Pasco County Sheriff's Office helicopter pilot took matters into his own hands after a laser was pointed at his aircraft Tuesday night. 

  • Pasco Sheriff's helicopter pilot distracted by laser pointer
  • Pilot Stephen Bowman tracked target, landed aircraft
  • Bowman went to man's home before deputies arrived

According to authorities, pilot Stephen Bowman was assisting deputies who responded to a barricaded suspect call in Port Richey.

Bowman was providing cover for ground units going into the barricaded suspect's home when the helicopter was targeted by a laser pointer.

"It blinded us temporarily for a couple of seconds — extremely painful," Bowman said of the light. "Once we came to, we saw a couple more flashes from the laser."

The pointer was causing enough of a distraction that Bowman was compelled to pull away from the assignment.

But Bowman didn't fly away. He tracked the laser pointer suspect.

Bowman noticed a parking lot about a quarter-mile from the suspect location that was large enough to safely land the helicopter. He landed the helicopter and walked over to the suspect's residence in the 7000 block of Ironbark Drive, where he detained a person.

Deputies responded and took Ryan Fluke, 27, into custody. Bowman said Fluke was surprised to get a knock on his door.

"I immediately took him into custody and then that's when he was a little confused on who I was," Bowman said. "I explained that I was a deputy pilot for the Sheriff's Office, and he wanted to know where my helicopter was."

Fluke has been charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony. Bowman said Fluke apologized and said he didn't realize the laser was dangerous.

From an open window Wednesday at his home, Fluke said he didn't want to talk without an attorney.

Bowman said it was the first time he's had a chance to catch an alleged laser pointer himself.

"It was extremely satisfying," Bowman said. "A lot of times, we don't get to interact in a sense on the ground with the deputies. So, being able to, from start to finish, follow this through and able to successfully apprehend the subject was very satisfying."