William R. Polson, the 6th Air Mobility Wing historian at MacDill Air Force Base, was arrested Friday night after deputies say he pointed a laser at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office helicoper flying at an altitude of about 500 feet, according to HCSO spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Deputies say the pilot was conducting routine flight operations near Plant City Airport when it was struck by the green laser on Friday night around 11 p.m.
Pilots determined the laser came from the area near the Walden Lake subdivision, and deputies say they obtained video of Polson shining the laser at the helicopter.
Polson, who McKinnon said had been shining the laser for about 20 minutes, drove away from his home while deputies were en route, but he was pulled over and taken into custody.
Efforts to reach Polson have been unsuccessful and base officials could not immediately comment on his work status.
A day after the Sept. 16, 2013 Washington Navy Yard mass murder, in which authorities say a Navy veteran shot and killed 12 people, Polson sent an email to The Tampa Tribune complaining that he had been harassed for several years by helicopters and other aircraft belonging to local law enforcement agencies.
Polson sent the email from his Air Force email account and expressed concern about the flights “following the wake of the tragedy yesterday in Washington.”
Saying he is a military veteran, Polson told the Tribune in his email that since “the fall of 2010, I’ve had numerous low-level harassing flyovers by aircraft (mostly helicopters, but also fixed-wing planes) from the Hillsborough County police, Tampa police and Clearwater Coast Guard. The only connection I could find between the three seemed to be in Homeland Security.”
Polson said that while there were “no set locations for the incidents, it happens just about anywhere between my home in Plant City and work at MacDill AFB. I’ve varied my route home to avoid any coincidental contact, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
In his email, Polson wrote that “over time, numerous incidents have become a daily occurrence” but that the flyovers, “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”
He added that he “tried reporting the incidents on base through official channels to the Air Force Safety Center” in January, 2013, “and to any other possible place that might help, but it’s been useless.”
On the night of the Navy Yard shooting, Polson said that “between 8-9 p.m., I experienced four such harassing flyovers on the drive from MacDill to my home in Plant City; the first by a Tampa helicopter, the second and third by a Hillsborough County helicopter near my home and then a fourth by a large aircraft that appeared to be a C-130 (most likely Coast Guard) over my home.”
He described the flights as “aggressive, low-level flights, that matched the usual pattern — they always swoop low, cross in front of my car as it approaches, and seem clearly meant to intimate, threaten and harass.”
After his arrest, Polson was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device, a felony, and obstructing or opposing an officer without violence, a misdemeanor.
He was released Sunday on $2,500 bond.
Stay with TBO.com for updates.
Reporter Elizabeth Behrman contributed to this story.