Kosciusko County Sheriff Rocky Goshert said Wednesday he delayed serving a felony warrant on Gary W. Helman because the Cromwell man had a history of violent confrontation.
Helman, 56, was shot and killed Monday during an attempt to serve that warrant by three bail enforcement agents, one of whom was injured by gunfire along with Helman's brother. Helman was free on a $10,000 bond after being charged with battery resulting in bodily injury, resisting law enforcement and failure to appear all stemming from a September 2013 incident.
“Our first thing was we wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” Goshert said. “We don’t want to go in recklessly.”
Goshert said after conducting surveillance on Helman, who had a long history of confrontations with law enforcement, some of it violent, police decided it was not the right time to serve the warrant.
The three bail enforcement agents attempted to serve the warrant without police assistance.
Goshert said the agents – Daniel Foster, 43, LaPorte; Michael C. Thomas, 36, Osceola; and Tad Martin, no age available, Osceola – were hired by Barnett’s Bail Bonds, Warsaw, but that he was not sure why Barnett’s called the agents in when they did.
Calls to Barnett’s Bail Bonds were not returned Wednesday.
The bail enforcement agents had reportedly made visual identification of Helman as he stood on the back deck of his residence, 9174 E. Doswell Blvd., Cromwell, Monday evening. When they engaged him, a gun battle took place inside and outside of the residence.
One agent, Martin, was struck by gunshots as well as Helman’s twin brother, Larry D. Helman, who also lived at the residence. They were both in serious condition and transported to area hospitals.
Gary Helman was pronounced dead from gunshot injuries at the scene by Kosciusko County Coroner Mike Wilson.
“To be honest, it happened just the way I thought it would,” Goshert said,  adding that anyone who has encountered Helman has ended up in some kind of stand-off.
The Times-Union reported that on Sept. 27 a KCSD officer attempted to serve an active warrant for the arrest of Gary Helman. After Helman resisted, grabbing the officer’s arm and twisting it, the officer activated a stun gun and eventually took him into custody.
In a previous incident, Helman was shot twice after a nine-hour standoff in front of his Cromwell home April 9, 2009. He was shot by members of the Indiana State Police Emergency Response Team after they say he reached for a gun in his waistband while they were attempting to serve arrest warrants on him.
“As we were looking at this particular situation that occurred, there were several red flags that came up,” Goshert said. “We had a plan (to arrest Helman), but it was not the time or place for it.”
Goshert said, however, that bail enforcement agents have the legal authority to execute an arrest if they are issued an arrest warrant from the county clerk.
Goshert said he doesn't believe recovery agents are used very often, and that this was the first time he recalls them being used in Kosciusko County.
Although uninvolved in the incident, local bondsman Al Putman, of Al Putman Investigation & Bail Bonds, said is speed of recovery is a motivation to use a bail enforcement agent.
“The advantage to hiring these guys is it gets done,” Putman said. “It gets done very fast.” But he said agents should pick the time and the place to apprehend a defendant carefully.
“When (the defendant) has a history of violence, you need to be extremely careful,” he said, noting the agents should not have put themselves in a situation where they would need to pull a weapon.
According to Indiana Code 35-41-3, a person, including a bail enforcement agent, is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat “if the person reasonably believes that that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony. No person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting the person or a third person by reasonable means necessary.”
The uninjured agents, Foster and Thomas, were taken in by law enforcement for interviews following Monday’s shootout, but were released pending further investigation.
Goshert said the case would be forwarded to the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if any state laws had been broken during the attempted apprehension.