10/11/2002

Fatal Drug Raid Shooting to be Investigated

Father Denies That Dead Man Held Pistol

by Lawrence Budd, The Dayton Daily News

West Alexandria, Ohio -- A police officer fatally shot a Preble County man Friday night during a drug raid at a farmhouse in West Alexandria, prompting outrage from his family and an investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

Clayton J. Helriggle, 23, was killed by a single shotgun blast fired by a Lewisburg police officer, according to the Preble County Sheriff's Office.

"The officer encountered Mr. Helriggle holding a pistol and the officer fired one round from a shotgun," said Preble Sheriff's Capt. Mike Simpson.

But Helriggle's father, Michael Helriggle, said his son was carrying a glass of water, not a gun. He also said police officers involved in the raid ran around "high-fiving each other" as he and his wife watched from a nearby field.

"They were so busy celebrating and everything. It was like a carnival to them," Helriggle said. "They all got to use their new guns and stuff."

Simpson said, "That's just not true."

The Montgomery Sheriff's Office has begun an investigation.

Helriggle was coming down the back stairs of a home at 1282 Ohio 503 S. about 6:45 p.m. when he was shot by the police officer, part of a multi-agency force serving a search warrant at the home, Simpson said.

The officer, who has not been identified, was already inside the back door of the house, Simpson said. The officers entered the home after announcing themselves, but without knocking, at 6:45 p.m. Friday, to serve a warrant seeking drugs suspected in trafficking involving another resident of the house. The raid capped a "short-term in-

vestigation," Simpson said.

Preble and Montgomery County authorities returned to the home Saturday and seized a small amount of marijuana, an unspecified about of pills and drug paraphernalia, according to a Preble County sheriff's press release.

"No other shots were fired at anybody else," Simpson said, although he said shots were fired at pit bulls inside the house. It was unclear whether the dogs were injured.

The arm of another man living in the house was injured during the raid. Officials were unsure if he was wounded by shrapnel from the shotgun blast or flying glass. Helriggle's father said the man had been hit by pellets from the shotgun.

Clayton Helriggle is the first person killed by law enforcement in Preble County in five years, Simpson said.

Michael Helriggle said his son's death could have been avoided had police knocked at the door, rather than bursting through in SWAT attire. "There was no reason for them to come in there that way," he said.

Michael Helriggle said Clayton worked in a family garage-door business.

He also enjoyed playing guitar and rock climbing in Kentucky's Red River Gorge, his father said.

"I lost my son over this, " he said. "It's turned my family upside down. He absolutely wasn't a drug dealer."

Funeral arrangements will be handled by Barnes Funeral Home in Eaton.
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