A Georgia man pleaded guilty to shooting at a Georgia State Patrol helicopter that was being used in an ATF operation.
Terry Kielisch, 56, entered the plea in U.S. District Court, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
Kielisch is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison from the charges, which include assaulting a person assisting an officer of the United States, and one count of using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
“Kielisch’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 Christine. “We are fortunate that no one was injured in this senseless attack.”
According to Kielisch's indictment, a GSP trooper was piloting the helicopter March 12, 2019. A Richmond County investigator was in the aircraft.
“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,” Christine said at the time of Kielisch’s indictment.
Kielisch, who was not a target in the operation, then shot at the helicopter with a rifle, a .308-caliber Remington 770, and later told investigators 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 was injured and the craft landed safely.
“An individual who will thoughtlessly endanger our law enforcement community will not be tolerated,” said Henry Countryman, an agent with the Atlanta field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Operation Gunsmoke resulted in the indictment of 26 people, including associates of a violent criminal street gang, on drugs and firearms charges in Georgia and South Carolina.