Witness describes shooting of tourist in Helen

Stray bullet wounds man, kills woman across street in N. Georgia town

A Texas woman died late Saturday after she was struck by a stray gunshot in the town of Helen in North Georgia.

Police said the bullet came from a small-caliber handgun carried by a 53-year-old man from Jasper, Ga. The gun accidentally discharged, and the bullet traveled across Helen’s tourist-laden Main Street and struck the woman in the side.

Bystanders attempted to administer first aid, police said, but authorities pronounced the woman dead at the scene.

The shooting took place outside the Old Heidelberg restaurant and bar, one of many Bavarian-themed businesses in Helen, a town of about 500 residents in White County, 90 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. The town’s main route, Ga. 75, is often crowded with visitors, many of them motorcyclists attracted by the area’s twisting mountainous roads.

Officers from the Helen Police Department responded to a call of shots fired at 10:41 p.m. Saturday. They first found the 53-year-old man, identified as Glenn Patrick Lampien, sitting on a bench, his hand bleeding. Officers then learned of a second victim, the Texas woman across the street, apparently struck by the same bullet.

Authorities did not release the woman’s name Sunday.

In a statement Sunday, the police said Lampien would be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

An employee who answered the telephone Sunday at the Old Heidelberg said the police had instructed the restaurant’s staff not to speak to reporters.

In a brief telephone interview, Lampien’s wife, Valerie, said her husband was recovering. She was not with him Saturday night in Helen.

“I don’t know what happened myself,” she said. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

Lampien is the owner of Lampien Mechanical Services in Jasper, which installs and services commercial and industrial air conditioning systems. Public records indicate he was convicted of driving under the influence in 1999 and sentenced to probation.

The shooting occurred less than two months after a new law took effect in Georgia that greatly extended gun owners’ rights to carry weapons in public places. Bars are among the locations covered by House Bill 60.

In an online forum sponsored by GeorgiaPacking.org, a gun-rights advocacy group, one commenter said Sunday: “Of course, HB 60 will be blamed.”

A woman posting to the Helen Police Department’s Facebook page took a different view: “Guns everywhere! This is our brand new law in action.”

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