Traumatic brain injury, post concussion and post traumatic stress disorder are among the list of injuries Maple Grove Police Officer and Medicine Lake Fire Chief Mike Helman continues to face during his recovery from an assault in December 2012.
While he remains on leave from the department, friends, coworkers and community members are pulling together to host a Oct. 7 benefit to help Helman and his family.
Helman was near the end of his shift Dec. 16, 2012 when he was called to the Bed, Bath and Beyond store on a disturbance call. A customer was reportedly hostile and refusing to leave the store.
According to a Hennepin County complaint filed last year:
When Helman responded, he asked the customer to leave voluntarily, but according to the complaint, the customer refused.
“After several warnings, Officer Helman deployed his Taser on the defendant,” Detective Laurel Slawson wrote in the complaint, indicating the Taser "did not appear" to have any effect. Helman then attempted to physically restrain the St. Michael man, who allegedly responded by “punching Officer Helman in the face several times.”
“Officer Helman briefly lost consciousness as he fell to the floor due to the force of the punches,” Slawson wrote in the complaint. “In addition to losing consciousness, Officer Helman suffered noticeable swelling in his facial area.”
Four days after the incident, which he was home for regularly scheduled time off, Helman decided he needed medical treatment and went to the hospital, he said in his interview with Patch.
“When I got assaulted, everyone was telling me to go to the hospital. I was trying to be the tough guy. I kept saying I was fine,” Helman told Patch. “I initially blew off all of the issues and symptoms I was experiencing until later when I got home – things kept compounding.”
“It just snowballed from there,” he said.
Recovery from the incident continues to be a road traveled by Helman, who remains on leave from the Maple Grove Police Department – a job he’s been at for the last 11 years.
“Initially, I was in la-la land. I was having difficulty doing my reports. I was hiding it – trying to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal,” he said.
It has been a lengthy process for a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, post concussion, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The injuries have resulted in conditions such as ongoing headaches, vision and speech issues, short-term memory loss, dizziness and trouble multi-tasking.
Helman says he started in law enforcement with the Washington County as a sheriff’s deputy, initially working with 20-year veterans of law enforcement. Accepting and getting help for his injuries has been personally difficult.
“You didn’t fit into the system unless you were tough. That was how I was brought up in law enforcement,” he said. “PTSD has been the toughest thing to deal with. When I started in law enforcement, you were considered a wimp if you went down that road.”
As part of his recovery, Helman has gone through occupational, physical and speech therapy and recently started in the Community Reintegration Program at the Courage Center.
“It is very exhausting, both mentality and physically. They’re working on a lot of things to get me back. ” he said, stating he continues to struggle with everyday headaches, some vision loss and the PTSD.
“No one knows how you get PTSD. I’ve been in law enforcement about 16 years…I’ve seen or been involved in things twice as bad. And you think, ‘why now and not then?’ They say you have a backpack that fills up and one day, you just can’t fill it anymore,” Helman said. “You keep putting it away and putting it away – at some point it gets full.’
He says it has taken him a “long time” to accept what happened.
“I’m still not there, but I’m starting to accept some of the things that have happened,” Helman said. “I’ve made a ton of improvements, which is good.”
As a way to help the Helman and his family - which includes his wife and three children - the Maple Grove Police Association is hosting a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament and Dinner Sunday, Oct. 7 at the Maple Grove Community Center. Poker and dinner suggested donation is $50, dinner only suggested donation $15. See flier attached to this article for details. The event also includes a raffle, which does not require in person attendance at the tournament and dinner.
Event Chair Rose Goodman has helped organize the evening, stating the community has shown “incredible” support – donations from businesses and organizations not only Maple Grove and Plymouth, but surrounding areas. Area police departments are lending their support, including Brooklyn Park, Minneapolis, Plymouth, Anoka, Crystal, Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Center and Elk River, as are Medicine Lake, Osseo and Eden Prairie Fire.
Those interested in donating, purchasing raffle tickets or would like more information, email Rose Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Nearly nine months after the assault, the future remains unknown for Helman, who is not sure when he’ll be able to return to work.
“I just want to return to work, which is frustrating. I don’t want to take the easy way out. I’m not a guy that likes to sit still,” he said. “No one can give me an answer as to when that [returning to work] is going to happen.”
Helman hopes to share this message, particularly about PTSD, with other law enforcement officers, “it’s okay if you have issues, to go and get help, if need be. Do it sooner rather than later. There are organizations that can help.”
The St. Michael man who allegedly assaulted Helman was initially charged with one count of assault in the fourth degree, a felony charge, in Hennepin County District Court Dec. 19, 2012. He was found not guilty by reason of mental illness, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, who then filed a petition for judicial commitment. He was given a stay of commitment on June 9, 2012, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.