Vail man who rammed cop car near Aspen apologizes, sentenced to five years probation |

Vail man who rammed cop car near Aspen apologizes, sentenced to five years probation

A former Vail resident who rammed a police officer’s car in Snowmass Canyon nearly two years ago while on cocaine and methamphetamines will spend the next five years on supervised probation.

Justin Helmer, 44, pleaded guilty in April to attempted second-degree assault, menacing and vehicular eluding causing injury, all felonies, and could have faced years in prison, said Don Nottingham, Aspen prosecutor.

“This was extremely dangerous behavior by Mr. Helmer,” Nottingham said Monday in Pitkin County District Court. “From his statements, it was clear he was not in his right mind.”

However, Helmer “has engaged in a significant amount of treatment since that time,” and Nottingham said he’s “hesitantly hopeful” he will continue down that path.

For his part, Helmer apologized to both the officer whose car he hit and a family of seven in another car he also ran into.

“I could have never lived with myself if I killed someone that night,” he said.

A Basalt police officer clocked Helmer driving his Ford F-350 pickup 96 mph on Highway 82 in late November 2017, but wasn’t able to get him to pull over until Snowmass Canyon. At that point, however, Helmer put the large truck into reverse when the officer got out of the car and rammed into it.

Nottingham said the officer faced a split-second choice of firing his weapon, launching himself down a 30- to 40-foot cliff or diving into his car. Fortunately, he chose to jump into the car and was not injured, though his wife later urged him to quit because it appeared Helmer had tried to kill him, the prosecutor said.

At the time, Helmer had stopped taking medication for bipolar disorder, had been up for six days straight and had been taking cocaine and methamphetamines, which led to psychosis, said his lawyer, Ingrid Alt.

According to police reports, he said he felt like he was in a cartoon, needed to destroy a gas line and that “devils and shadows” were talking to him.

Helmer was finally taken into custody at the Brush Creek Lot at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82.

He plans to live with family in Durango, and his probation will be transferred to La Plata County if the probation department doesn’t object.

In other court news Monday:

• A South Korean man who came to Aspen this summer and broke into an area home before making strange statements about the former CEO of the Aspen Institute and the end of the world will be escorted home by representatives of his embassy.

That’s according to his public defender, Ashley Andrews, who said Monday that “agents” from the South Korean consulate will come to the Pitkin County Jail, escort Yoseop Kim to the airport and put him on a flight to South Korea. Members of his family also will come to Aspen and assist in the procedure, she said.

The operation needs to occur before Oct. 28, when Kim’s U.S. visa expires, Andrews said.

Nottingham did not object to the procedure and said a felony burglary charge would be dismissed once his office received confirmation that Kim had arrived in South Korea. Kim had been found incompetent to stand trial in the United States and was scheduled to be restored to competency before Monday’s proceedings, he said.

Nottingham said Monday that Kim’s chances of restoration will likely be far more successful in his home country with his family nearby.

Kim was arrested Aug. 4 after a property manager found him inside a home in the 800 block of Spruce Street. He told a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy that he’d taken a shower at the home, helped himself to nachos and said “the world would come to an end in eight years if he did not come to Aspen.”

Records indicated he’d flown from South Korea to Seattle on July 31 and had a Korean copy of Walter Isaacson’s recent book on Leonardo DaVinci in his backpack when he was arrested in Aspen. He told Aspen police officers, who had contact with him before his arrest, that he was looking for Isaacson, according to an affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

• A 36-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to breaking in to his ex-girlfriend’s home while she was sleeping in March and was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation.

If Edward Wegmann successfully completes the probationary sentence, the felony charge of first-degree criminal trespassing will be wiped from his record under a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office.

Wegmann said he suffers from a traumatic brain injury, though Nottingham said he’s gone through significant counseling in an effort to address his issues “and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The ex-girlfriend reported waking up to find Wegmann standing in her bedroom and told police she was “terrified.”


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