Grant County deputy justified in shooting of suspect

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By Ted Pennekamp


A Grant County Sheriff’s Department deputy was justified in the fatal shooting of a man near Mount Hope on Sept. 1, concluded Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker in a statement on Oct. 23.

Roger B. Helgerson Jr., 45, died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted by Grant County Deputy Andrew Smith. The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) had been investigating the officer-involved death since the incident.

“My determination in this officer-involved death is that Deputy Smith acted within the confines of the law when using deadly force upon Mr. Helgerson,” said Riniker.

Riniker said Smith had reported that Helgerson had pointed a firearm at him, which caused Smith to fire three rounds at Helgerson. Video evidence corroborated Smith, according to Riniker, who based her determination on the DCI investigation. The sheriff’s department also conducted an internal investigation that determined that no policy violations took place during the incident.

“Just prior to encountering Mr. Helgerson on Sept. 1, 2017, Deputy Smith received information from the Grant County Sheriff’s Department that Mr. Helgerson had made reference to having a shoot-out with law enforcement in reference to a foreclosure action,” said Riniker. “Having that knowledge, Deputy Smith had his department issued rifle ready for use. After a short vehicle pursuit of Mr. Helgerson, Deputy Smith positioned himself behind his opened squad car door and observed Mr. Helgerson getting out of his vehicle. Deputy Smith indicated that he observed Mr. Helgerson to have a gun and that Mr. Helgerson pointed the long gun at Deputy Smith causing him to use deadly force against Mr. Helgerson.”

Riniker also said, “Deputy Smith’s assertions are corroborated by his squad car video. While overgrown vegetation and the position of the squad car camera make it difficult to see, there is a point in the video where there is an object in Mr. Helgerson’s right hand positioned next to his body which is pointed in the area where Deputy Smith would be.”

Riniker also said that upon inspection of Helgerson, it was noted that a Glenfield MOD 75 Marlin .22 caliber long rifle was within his grasp located between Helgerson’s right arm and body. It is also noted that there was one bullet in the chamber and several unfired cartridges either on Helgerson’s person or in the immediate area of his body.

“Given Mr. Helgerson’s act of pointing a firearm, Deputy Smith was entitled to use deadly force to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to either himself or Deputy (Mason) Nemitz who was also on the scene,” said Riniker. “Because of that, criminal charges will not be filed against Deputy Smith.”

On Sept. 1, at approximately 7:08 a.m., two deputies, Smith and Nemitz, from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office were parked on Millville Hollow Road attempting to apprehend Helgerson, who had multiple warrants for his arrest.

When contact was attempted at 14403 Millville Hollow Road in Millville Township, Helgerson fled from the deputies and led them on a short pursuit. Smith had parked his squad car north of Helgerson’s residence. Nemitz had parked to the south, according to a DCI investigation report.

The dashboard camera video showed that Smith activated his siren and followed the Helgerson vehicle north on Millville Hollow Road. Helgerson stopped his vehicle and Smith stopped his squad car a distance behind. 

Helgerson got out of his vehicle and Smith shouted, “Let me see your hands,” and then, “Drop it. Drop it.” Three shots are then heard.

According to the DCI report, Smith fired three times at Helgerson, who fell to the ground. Smith and Nemitz waited until more officers arrived with an armored vehicle. Helgerson was found dead at the scene.

An autopsy conducted on Sept. 2 at the University of Wisconsin Hospital revealed that Helgerson had a gunshot wound to the neck and another to the chest.

Upon completion of the DCI investigation, it was turned over to Grant County District Attorney Riniker for review. Riniker reviewed the materials over the course of several weeks.

Meanwhile, Deputy Smith had been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the conclusion and outcome of the investigation and review.

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