Pubdate: Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Source: Middletown Journal, The (OH)
Contact:  2002 Cox Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Cathy Mong
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


EATON -- Preble County law-enforcement officials declined to talk publicly 
Monday as they turned information about Friday's fatal shooting by a police 
officer of a 23-year-old West Alexandria man over to detectives from the 
Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

Montgomery County investigators, called in by Preble County Sheriff Tom 
Hayes, also said they would not talk about their review of the shooting by 
a member of a Preble County's emergency services group -- officers from a 
number of police departments who are trained to handle drownings and 
hostage and other situations.

But it was anything but quiet outside the Preble County Courthouse, where 
dozens of friends and relatives picketed and said police were covering up 
what happened to Clayton Jacob Helriggle, 23, of 1282 Ohio 503 South in 
West Alexandria.

The protesters disputed police claims that Helriggle had a gun when he 
descended a stairwell and was shot by a Lewisburg police officer, whose 
identity has not been released. Friends and relatives on Monday carried 
blue plastic cups similar to the one they said Helriggle had in his hand 
Friday night.

Among the protesters were four of Helriggle's roommates, three of whom said 
they were inside the brick farmhouse when police stormed the house to serve 
a warrant to search for narcotics.

Maj. Wayne Simpson of the Preble County Sheriff's Office declined to 
discuss information about what happened Friday night and said a report on 
the shooting had not been completed. Preble County Prosecutor Rebecca 
Ferguson said she sealed the search warrant Friday evening, after the 
shooting, and had no comment regarding the investigation.

"They're a professional group of officers, that's what their job is, and 
I'm not going to second-guess them. Whatever (Montgomery County officials) 
come up with, they come up with," Ferguson said.

Friends called Helriggle "peaceful and nonviolent," but police said the 
1997 Twin Valley South High School graduate held a 9 mm handgun, not a blue 
cup, in his right hand when he descended the dimly lighted stairs. 
Roommates said Helriggle owned a 9 mm gun, but that it was upstairs when 
police entered their house.

"It's like we were armed, hardened criminals waiting inside to take them 
on," said Wes Bradley, 26, who lived in the bottom half of the six-bedroom 
farmhouse with his girlfriend, 22-year-old Tasha Webster.

Bradley and Webster were near the kitchen next to the stairs, when 
"(officers) broke through the back door with battering rams and started 
throwing in flash grenades three at a time, to blind us."

He said the officers wore full body armor and carried shields.

Another roommate, Ian Albert, said he had returned home from the grocery 
store with Chris Elmore, 24, who remained outside while Albert ran into the 

"We saw at least two paddy wagon-type vehicles, like a SWAT bus," Elmore 
said. "About 30 officers stormed out of the woods" surrounding the 
farmhouse. "They'd cut the barbed wire, and you could see a staging area, 
like where 25 to 30 uniformed cops had been lying down and slithered along 
the grass."

Officers ordered Elmore to get on the ground, and he said he heard three 
pops, which he said could have been the flash grenades and gunshot.

"I yelled 'Nobody's armed,' and they told me, 'Shut up, shut up.' "
Elmore described the action "like a movie, in slow motion."

Inside, Albert said, police threw him against the staircase, "with my head 
on the second step up. I wanted to yell at Clay, but I looked up and saw 
him, rounding the stairway, and he had this look on his face, like, 'What's 
going on.' and the cops yelled, 'Get down' and then 'boom.' "
Albert, who completed four months of Navy Seal training, said he reached up 
for Helriggle, "and I tried to apply pressure," he said, placing his left 
palm on his right chest, where Helriggle was struck by the gunshot.

"He died in my arms," he said. "It took about two minutes."

Albert said he was placed in a sheriff's car and Helriggle's parents arrived.

"They saw me, drenched in Clay's blood, and they ask me, 'Is he all right.' 
and I just shook my head. The cops are smoking and joking, high-fiving each 
other. Wow, I think, they took down a farm of unarmed hippies.

"If they would have come to the door and said, 'Give us your dope, 
hippies,' we'd have gotten about a $100 ticket."

Police said they confiscated a small amount of marijuana, pills, drug 
paraphernalia and quantities of packaging items used in the distribution of 

The four roommates said they smoke marijuana from time to time and that 
they had marijuana pipes in the house. Bradley said he had a prescription 
for Fiorocet, a codeine-like pain-killer, for a bad knee. They said the 
packaging police referred to was a box of plastic sandwich bags.

Webster said there was nothing in the house "that a good divorce lawyer 
couldn't have gotten us out on a misdemeanor" and said an old shotgun and a 
.22-caliber rifle were used for hunting.

"We target practiced outside all the time, shot at bales of hay, jugs, that 
sort of thing," Webster said.

Bradley and Webster said Helriggle took a nap around 5 p.m. and had made 
plans to meet his girlfriend later.

"I'm not sure if he woke up from the bashing on the door or what," Bradley 

All four said they were not read their rights or told what charges were 
filed against them. They were released from the Preble County Jail around 
1:30 a.m. Saturday. No criminal charges have been filed.

Nancy Fahrenholz, the daughter of Everett "Bill" Fahrenholz, an attorney 
and former country prosecutor, hugged Bradley on Monday at the courthouse. 
Helriggle and five roommates rented the house from the Fahrenholzes.

"I'm so sorry," said the Rhode Island resident, here to finish up her 
father's estate.

Bill Fahrenholz died a month ago.

"(Dad) would have been furious at this," she said. "We're all very 

She said Helriggle "was a really nice guy," and that her family was pleased 
with the five young people's work on rehabilitating the farmhouse.

Helriggle's 77-year-old grandfather, Donald, a Miamisburg resident and Ohio 
Bell retiree, said his grandson rented the farmhouse "so they could play 
their instruments, listen to their music and drink a little beer. ... they 
just wanted to be doing what 23-year-olds do." 
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