Family Claims Reporter Set Up Fatal Shootout

     (CN) – The family of an Indiana man shot and killed by bail recovery agents claim in court that a reporter and the news agency she worked for colluded with the bounty hunters to bring about the 2014 fatal shootout at the family’s home.
     As recounted in the complaint filed in the South Bend, Indiana Federal Court, the events that transpired on Aug. 25, 2014 stemmed from Gary Helman’s arrest a year earlier on charges of battery and resisting law enforcement.
     Following Helman’s arrest, his mother secured a $25,000 bond for his release. Helman later skipped out on the bond, and its underwriter and local agent hired three bounty hunters to collect.
     Acting on information given to them by local reporter Stacey Staley, the three bail recovery agents went to Atta Belle Helman’s home and tried to serve a warrant to her son for failure to appear in court.
     According to the complaint, Helman had a history of turbulent relations with law enforcement, and in 2009 was involved in a nine-hour standoff with the Indiana State Police.
     Staley had reported on some of these incidents in the past.
     Helman’s mother and twin brother Larry, who was wounded in the same incident in which his brother died, claims Staley and her employer, The Papers Inc., were motivated to give the bounty hunters the family’s address by a hunger for publicity and the hope of getting exclusive live coverage of what would likely be a violent confrontation.
     They say Staley used her position as a reporter and her familiarity with Gary Helman’s history to gather intelligence on behalf of the bounty hunters.
     The family claims Staley befriended Helman and set up a supposed interview with him at his mother’s home, all as a pretext for gathering information for the bounty hunters.
     “The conspiracy had the chief goals [of] bringing about publicity and financial windfalls which were expected to benefit all of the defendants at the expense of the rights and liberties of the Helman family,” the complaint states.
     The Helmans claim Staley left the home after the interview and went immediately to the bounty hunters, telling them the number of occupants inside the home, their locations inside the house, and descriptions of the occupants’ clothing.
     She then waited near the home with “great anticipation to observe the violent confrontation begin,” the complaint says.
     It then goes on to describe the chaotic moments that followed. As described in the complaint, the bounty hunters confronted Larry Helman on the back porch of the home, and then began screaming and violently beating on the front and back doors before forcing their way inside.
     Once inside they attacked Gary Helman and his mother, resulting in an “immediate and fully anticipated gun fight,” the complaint says.
     Gary Helman, was shot multiple times but returned fire before he died, wounding bounty hunter Tadd Martin.
     Larry Helman was shot in the back but survived. The complaint describes how Martin then exited and retreated from the home while Atta Helman “cried hysterically over the shooting of her twin boys in her own home.”
     The family says before the confrontation, local police tried to dissuade the bounty hunters from carrying out their plan to invade the Helman home, warning them that such a confrontation would be dangerous, and that they should stand down to avoid the possibility of violence.
     The Helmans are seeking unspecified damages on claims the defendants violated their the Fourth, Fifth and Fifteenth Amendment rights. In addition they assert claims of failure to protect, supervisor liability, and conspiracy to interfere with civil rights.
     Atta Belle Helman and Larry Helman are represented by Michael Misch of Anderson Agostino & Keller, and attorney Anthony Rose, all of South Bend.
     In addition to Staley and The Papers Inc., the seven other named defendants are Barnett’s Bail Bonds Inc.; its owners, Michael Barnett and Myra Barnett; Lexington National Insurance Corporation; and bail recovery agents Tadd Martin, Daniel Foster and Michael Thomas.
     According to a 2014 article in The Goshen News newspaper, Staley acknowledged that she had relayed information to the bounty hunters after concluding her interview at the Helman home. She resigned her position with The Papers Inc. shortly after the 2014 shootout. In a story published about Staley’s resignation, ABC 57News reported that “Many have questioned her ethics as a journalist after police named her as an informant in the recent situation where bounty hunters staked out the home and later killed Gary Helman.”
     The Papers Inc. General Manager Ron Baumgartner was unavailable for comment.

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