Chatham Co. Deputy recovering after being shot in Pooler - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Chatham Co. Deputy recovering after being shot in Pooler

Vincent Helmly (Source: CCSO) Vincent Helmly (Source: CCSO)

“Officer down” is the call no one in law enforcement wants to hear. That became reality in Pooler on Wednesday, after a Chatham County Deputy was shot while trying to serve a stalking warrant, Wednesday afternoon.

Twenty-five-year-old Vincent Helmly is behind bars after shooting at Deputy Lester Ellerbe, a 15-year veteran, then failing to surrender for nearly four hours. After shooting the deputy and shooting at a Pooler Police officer in his car, Helmly barricaded himself inside the house on Leah Drive, off Quacco Road.

According to Interim Sheriff Roy Harris, it took a while to get the officers pinned down out of harm's way. Smoke was brought in to help get them out. They say they remained in pretty good communication with Helmly throughout the whole ordeal. Next, they used tear gas, and things ended quickly soon after. 

Harris says the deputies were very lucky. 

"He was mobile and talking, and doing very well. Again, a very fortunate situation that he did not receive more injuries. If that round hit him in the shoulder or head, he would not be here today. The second deputy, if had not reacted immediately with gunfire, he would have been in serious trouble as well."

Dozens of law enforcement all throughout Chatham County responded to the scene. In the end, it ended in the best way possible, with no one else getting hurt. We learned that Deputy Ellerbe is doing fine. He was released from the hospital and is recovering after being shot in the arm.

Helmly appeared in a Pooler court Thursday morning and was denied bond. He is facing several felony charges from Pooler Police and the sheriff’s office, and this is not his first run in with the law. At the end of the day, everyone went home alive, and that was a victory.

Helmly had a high-powered rifle in his hands, which raised concerns of possible suicide, or suicide by cop.

"A 30-30 rifle, which is typically used for deer hunting, will penetrate any ballistic vests that our guys are wearing. So, that would have been useless. It was a tedious afternoon when I arrived, and we had a large number of officers that responded," said Sheriff Harris. "There were heavy woods around him, and we were worried that once dark fell, he would take off running. The SWAT team is there to not create more problems or cause harm to the suspect. They are supposed to get to that suspect, get him calm, and get him in custody."

That's exactly what happened.

"This man has been in trouble before. We need him locked up and behind bars where he is not out and a danger to this community,” said Sheriff Harris.

"We hear a high-powered rifle going off. It seemed right next to our window. I come outside, and there are like 20 cops already there,” said Andrew Best, family friend of shooting suspect.

Best is Helmly's landlord and family friend. His home is less than 25 yards from where the standoff took place.

“I mean, he had some issues, and he and his girlfriend broke up, but I mean, he had some stuff going on his head, but overall he was good kid. I always looked at him as almost a little brother. I hate that this happened. Nobody thought he would do this. I cannot understand it, and no one can,” Best said.

Best says he knows Helmly made a huge mistake, but was quick to defend him.

"I want to clear the air. He was not involved in drugs. He worked every day."

As for the sheriff, he and his deputies will sleep much better at night.  

"Everyone did a fantastic job, and I am just so glad I am talking about a wounded officer and not a dead officer,” he said.

The sheriff says they were worried about three things. The first - that Helmly may commit suicide; the second - that he may commit suicide by cop, or third - that he may run because there are a lot of woods around the area.

When Ellerbe returns, he will be on administrative duties, but the sheriff says that will be very brief because it appears no procedures were violated.

Helmly will likely face additional charges.

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