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Tampa Police Make Arrest In Laser Strike Investigation

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The Tampa Police Department arrested a suspect in connection with a series of laser strikes targeting commercial aircraft approaching Tampa International Airport (TPA).

Since January 1st, 2024, TPD has investigated over 40 incidents where lasers were pointed at incoming flights, posing a serious danger to pilots and passengers. The investigation narrowed the suspect location to a specific area in South Tampa.


"These laser strikes are not only illegal but also incredibly reckless behavior that could have resulted in a tragic accident," said Chief Lee Bercaw. "We are grateful for the tireless efforts of our officers and the FBI in bringing this case to a close."

Tampa Police aviation and patrol officers began an investigation in April, with assistance provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Officers conducted extensive surveillance at the suspect's residence while gathering evidence.

On April 25th, 2024, just before 12:30 am, Tampa Police Officers, in the air and on the ground, observed the suspect, later identified as 47-year-old Douglas Sollenberger (WM 2/4/1977), in possession of a laser light device. Officers continued surveillance and witnessed the suspect pointing the laser directly at an incoming Jet Blue flight. The pilot of the incoming Jet Blue flight confirmed being struck by a laser. Thankfully, the pilot landed the aircraft safely.

Following the incident, Sollenberger returned to his residence where he was quickly taken into custody by Tampa Police Officers. A search warrant was obtained for Sollenberger’s residence, resulting in the recovery of two lasers; one believed to be used in the early morning incident.

“Tampa International Airport takes every measure to ensure the safety of flight and we rely on our entire community to assist us in those efforts,” TPA Executive Vice President of Operations John Tiliacos said. “We’re thankful to our TPD and FBI partners, whom we work very closely with, for their diligent work in protecting our aircraft, passengers, and crews. Never point a laser at an aircraft!”

Sollenberger was charged with Misuse of a Laser Lighting Device and transported to Orient Road Jail.