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East Ga. man admits firing on helicopter during federal law enforcement operation

A Blythe man has pled guilty to federal charges that he shot a helicopter being used in support of a law enforcement operation.

Aircraft supported ATF during Operation Gunsmoke

A Blythe man has pled guilty to federal charges that he shot a helicopter being used in support of a law enforcement operation.

Terry Kielisch, 56, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to two counts of Assaulting a Person Assisting an Officer of the United States, and one count of Use of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

“This defendant’s dangerous actions callously threatened the lives of two law-enforcement officers, damaged public property and threatened the safety of all residents near the scene of this incident,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “We are fortunate that no one was injured in this senseless attack.”

According to court documents and testimony, Kielisch used a .308 caliber rifle to fire two shots at a Georgia State Patrol helicopter piloted by a GSP trooper, with a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office investigator as a passenger, on March 12, 2019. The aircraft was providing support for Operation Gunsmoke, a sweep of defendants accused of drug trafficking and illegal firearms possession in Georgia and South Carolina, coordinated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Kielisch was not a target in the operation, and told investigators he fired at the helicopter because he didn’t like it flying near his home. The helicopter, which was struck near fuel lines, received an estimated $60,000 in damage, but neither the pilot nor the passenger were injured and the craft landed safely.

“An individual who will thoughtlessly endanger our law enforcement community will not be tolerated,” said Henry Countryman, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “ATF, along with our law enforcement partners, is committed to combating violent crime to protect our communities.”

“The Georgia State Patrol is grateful the crew and those on the ground weren’t injured as a result of Kielisch’s careless actions,” said Lt. Stephanie L. Stallings, Public Information Director for the Georgia State Patrol. “We are equally grateful to U.S. Attorney Christine for the swift resolution in this case.”

“Protecting our courageous and dedicated law enforcement officers is the sheriff’s greatest responsibility,” said Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree. “We are appreciative to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their prompt attention to these dangerous unprovoked actions.”

The case was investigated by the ATF, the Georgia State Patrol and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hank Syms Jr.

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