St. Petersburg Assistant Chief of Police Jim Previtera was blinded by a laser pointer

Laser pointer later lit paper bag on fire
Posted at 12:34 PM, Jun 12, 2016

A laser pointer powerful enough to light a paper bag on fire was pointed at St. Pete Assistant Police Chief Jim Previtera, temporarily blinding him, according to a St. Pete PD press release.

It happened around 8:45 p.m. Saturday night.

David Smith, of of 6809 Circle Creek Drive, Pinellas Park, is now charged with misuse of a laser lighting
device, a third degree felony.

According to St. Pete PD, Previtera was driving his unmarked police car northbound in the 5600 block of 4th Street North when his windshield became illuminated by a bright blue flash of light.

His vision was immediately impaired, according to police.

Previtera was able to determine that the source of the blue light had come from a parked vehicle at 5625 4th Street North, the release states.

Previtera and patrol units made contact with the occupants of the parked vehicle, the release states. They were able to establish that the driver of the parked vehicle, David R. Smith, had pointed a Class 3B laser device at  Previtera's vehicle, the release explained.

Previtera's vision was reportedly impaired for approximately 30 minute after the incident.

St. Pete Police say research conducted on the Class 3B laser device possessed by Smith showed that the laser pointer can cause serious damage to the eye.

Later at the St. Petersburg Police Department, to demonstrate the power of the seized device, the laser was pointed at a paper bag and it started the paper bag on fire, the release states.