Lafayette grand jury declines to indict officer in fatal shooting

A Lafayette police officer acted within Police Department guidelines when he shot and killed a bank robber in a field near U.S. 90, according to a State Police report on the September shooting.

The report was released to The Advocate last week by the Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office following a grand jury’s decision July 17 not to charge the Lafayette officer with a crime.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft asked State Police to investigate the Sept. 28 officer-involved shooting following the incident.

Craft said last week that the officer was put on administrative leave with pay, then returned to duty after an internal probe and psychiatric evaluation. Craft declined further comment.

According to the State Police report, which incorporates several eyewitness accounts and police car video footage, Thomas Helvik, 41, of Port Allen, robbed Home Bank on Ambassador Caffery Parkway at 3:12 p.m. Sept. 28.

Helvik then fled northeast toward U.S. 90 and along the way attracted a host of pursuers in marked and unmarked Lafayette police cars and at least one Lafayette city marshal’s unit, the report says.

Among police chasing the suspect were Lafayette detectives who had been watching the city’s banks after a “string of bank robberies involving what was later determined to be Helvik’s vehicle, a four-door Ford F-250 with a lift kit,” the report reads.

The officer who shot Helvik was at Lafayette police headquarters when the call came in about another robbery, the report says.

“He was aware of the rash of bank robberies that occurred throughout the state utilizing the same vehicle,” the report reads, adding that the suspect was known to be “armed and dangerous.”

Minutes later, the officer, along with a deputy in a Lafayette city marshal unit, located Helvik and his truck in a field near Frank’s International, an oilfield contractor whose yard is near U.S. 90.

The officer stopped his vehicle near Helvik’s truck, got out of his patrol car, then saw Helvik backing the Ford up toward him.

The report states the officer fired his .40-caliber handgun “multiple times” at the tires, then shot at Helvik after the truck changed directions, and moved toward Frank’s, where two employees were.

“While Helvik’s truck was under way, (the officer) feared for the safety/lives of the workers in the pipe yard,” according to the report.

“(The officer) discharged his handgun seven times in an attempt to stop Helvik’s aggression.”

Police and paramedics tried to revive Helvik, the report says.

An autopsy showed Helvik sustained a gunshot on the upper right side of his back, and that he had ingested cocaine.

The report also states Helvik stole $4,000 from Home Bank.

The report does not mention a weapon or an accomplice.