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Press Release

Man Who Pointed Laser At Tampa Police Department Helicopter Sentenced To Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich has sentenced Jeremy Wayne Sumpter (31, Garland, TX) to 12 months and one day in federal prison for knowingly aiming a laser at an aircraft. He pleaded guilty on March 24, 2015.

According to court documents, on February 14, 2014, aviation officers with the Tampa Police Department (TPD) were flying in a Bell 407 helicopter during aerial patrol when they observed a green light illuminate the cockpit. The officers observed the laser hit the helicopter four times.  They were soon able to locate the suspect who had been standing in the middle of the roadway. As the officers turned the aircraft toward the suspect, he began to run into his residence.

TPD officers made contact with Sumpter at his front door, and observed a broken laser pointer on his coffee table. Sumpter admitted that he had been outside with a laser pointer and that there had been a helicopter in the area where he had been pointing the laser. He also stated that he had destroyed that laser because he thought he was in trouble. Several other lasers were discovered in the residence.

On Feb. 14, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which modernizes the nation's aviation system. This Act establishes a new criminal offense for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.

This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tampa Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shauna S. Hale.

Updated October 14, 2015