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Beltrami Deputy killed in 1912 to be memorialized

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Ceremony Thursday

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office and Bemidji Police Department will be memorializing law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty during a memorial service on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on the County Courthouse Lawn, 619 Beltrami Avenue. In the event of rain, the service will be moved to the Bemidji Fire Department at 318 5th Street NW.

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BEMIDJI -- It was long believed that one sole soul had lost his life in the line of law enforcement duty in Beltrami County.

Sadly, it has been discovered another man joins Deputy James Art Wilson in making the ultimate sacrifice.

Wilson was noted as the only man to die in the line of duty in the history of the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office's and his story was featured in the Pioneer last year. However, following that article, information surfaced naming Deputy Sheriff Norman Walter Helmer as another slain officer.

Beltrami County Sheriff' Phil Hodapp wrote to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in October to initiate inclusion of Helmer's name on the NLEOMF memorial. Hodapp received confirmation in February.

"We were unaware of Deputy Helmer's homicide until we came across stories of his death in historical archives at the Beltrami County Historical Center while researching Wilson's death," Hodapp said.

Hodapp will be travelling to Washington D.C. for the 26th Annual Candlelight Vigil on Tuesday, where he will witness Helmer's name added to the memorial. This week is National Police Week, in conjunction with Peace Officers Memorial Day, which occurs on Thursday.

Hodapp said he is fairly certain no other officers have been killed in the line of duty since the office was formed in 1897. Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said there have been no police officers killed in the line of duty to his knowledge.

Helmer had been a police officer prior to joining the sheriff's office.

Helmer is identified as being a sworn officer with full arrest powers who was married and killed by felonious assault. Helmer was killed in Nymore at 4:50 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1912; he was 34.

Accounts of Helmer's death were told in the Bemidji Daily Pioneer and the Bemidji Sentinel. Three small boys were the only witnesses of a man called "the Finn" shooting Helmer. The Finn and Helmer were engaged in a shootout. Hodapp explained that Helmer was able to disarm the man of his rifle, but "The Finn" at that time pulled out a revolver and shot Helmer, causing his death. Shots from Helmer's pistol killed his killer.

Historical death data Hodapp uncovered recorded Helmer as being "killed by gunshot wound inflicted by a man supposed to be (with weapon) with intent to kill."

Hodapp was not able to locate any of Helmer's family members; as far as he is aware, Helmer doesn't have any in the area. Helmer was interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

"He was a heck of a cop," Hodapp said. "He was well respected by his fellow officers."

Hodapp and others in his office have been researching Helmer's life and death. "He was the son of a whiskey smuggler," Hodapp said.

Archives Hodapp discovered detail investigations Helmer was involved in including a robbery of the Puposky General Store when a safe was blown and a handpump, train car chase ensued. Two years later, Helmer was back at the general store on a stakeout.

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