Sarasota County brothers charged with pointing lasers at sheriff’s office helicopter

Gary Bennington and Matthew Bennington, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office photos

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two brothers are accused of aiming laser lights at a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Wednesday night.

The helicopter was patrolling near I-75 and Porter Road around 11:30 p.m. when deputies saw red and green lights. The lights hit the aircraft several times, “lighting up the cockpit simultaneously,” deputies said.

“Imagine if you’re driving a car at night in a very dark area and somebody were to take a very bright flashlight and point it at your eyes for a second. It’s going to be very hard to maintain control of that car. Well, a laser does the same thing over a much larger distance,” Deputy Dave Bouffard said. Bouffard is a pilot for the sheriff’s office. “People think it’s a toy, and you get the type of person who doesn’t understand it, not realizing how dangerous it is. Then you have another type of person who is irritated by the aircraft noise so they think this is a way to get those people away from them or that aircraft away from them.”

Pilots pinpointed the location of the lasers to 2493 Andansian Lane. “The beauty of a laser is it tells us exactly where it’s coming from. Keep doing it and you are going to get caught,” Bouffard explained.

Thermal imaging shows the brothers, 25-year-old Gary Bennington and 22-year-old Matthew Bennington, firing the lasers and then running into the home, deputies said.

The brothers eventually admitted to the crime, and deputies found both lasers on the home’s back porch, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Benningtons are each charged with misuse of laser devices, a felony. In addition, deputies found pot and a marijuana plant in the home. The brothers face charges for that.

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