AUGUSTA, GA: A Blythe man who shot a helicopter being used in support of a law enforcement operation has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison.
Terry Kielisch, 56, was sentenced to 183 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen on two counts of Assaulting a Person Assisting an Officer of the United States, and one count of Use of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. After completion of his prison term, Kielisch will serve five years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“When Terry Kielisch aimed and fired a high-powered rifle at a police helicopter, he callously endangered the lives of the officers aboard the aircraft and of any people on the ground,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “The resulting sentence appropriately reflects the senselessness of this attack.”
As he admitted in pleading guilty to the charges, Kielisch used a .308 caliber rifle to fire two shots at a Georgia State Patrol helicopter piloted by a GSP trooper, with a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office investigator as a passenger, on March 12, 2019. The aircraft was providing support for Operation Gunsmoke, searching for fugitives accused of drug trafficking and illegal firearms possession in Georgia and South Carolina, and coordinated by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Kielisch was not a target in the operation, but told investigators he fired at the helicopter because he didn’t like it flying near his home. Bullets struck the helicopter near its fuel lines, and Judge Bowen ordered Kielisch to pay $54,960 in restitution for the resulting damage.
The pilot was able to land the aircraft safely, and neither he nor the passenger were injured.
“The Georgia State Patrol is grateful the crew and those on the ground weren’t injured as a result of Kielisch’s careless actions,” said Lt. Stephanie L. Stallings, Public Information Director for the Georgia State Patrol. “This agency is equally grateful to U.S. Attorney Christine for the swift resolution in this case.”
The case was investigated by the ATF, the Georgia State Patrol and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hank Syms Jr.