Less than two days after launching a nationwide campaign on the dangers of shining laser pointers at aircraft, the FBI is investigating a Tampa man for that same federal offense.
According to Tampa Police, officers were flying in a helicopter around 1:30 a.m. Thursday when the pilots noticed they were being hit with a green laser from the ground. Pilots used night vision and FLIR detection to guide their ground units to a truck in a parking lot off Adamo Drive.
Officers found Bradley Steffes, 29, getting into the truck. According to police, a search of his vehicle gleaned a laser pointer, marijuana and a glass marijuana pipe.
Steffes' arrest comes the same week the FBI announced it would give a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of a person who has shined a laser pointer at an aircraft.
The campaign is aimed at letting the public know the seemingly harmless act is a federal offense, according to FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier.
"You're actually putting, not only the pilot's safety in jeopardy, but other individuals that might be aboard that aircraft, or even people on the ground," Couvertier said.
Local pilots who have dealt with laser attacks compare it to driving down a dark road and facing an oncoming car with high beams on, saying the experience can be blinding.
Steffes could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if found guilty, according to the FBI.
"Hopefully this particular incident serves as a deterrent to anyone who is thinking about doing this," Couvertier said.