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Cops, Case Workers Talk Down Mentally Ill Gunman

Michael Helman

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office’s newly formed Crisis Intervention Co-Response Team, which pairs mental-health case workers with deputies in the field, successfully de-escalated a tense standoff in the Mission Canyon area that threatened to turn violent.

Michael Helman, a 56-year-old Santa Barbara man with a history of mental illness and criminal behavior, had allegedly broken into his family’s home on May 22 and refused to leave. “He had access to firearms in the house and threatened to harm family members or law enforcement personnel if they tried to remove him,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover. As a precaution, authorities evacuated nearby homes, but soon after, the Co-Response Team was able to talk Helman down. He was arrested without further incident.

Just 10 days earlier, on May 12, Helman was reportedly involved in a similarly combustible situation. His landlord had called 9-1-1 to report that Helman was banging on her bedroom door and making threatening statements. “The victim expressed that she did not feel safe to leave her locked bedroom,” Hoover said. Deputies and mental-health workers responded and determined Helman was experiencing a mental-health crisis. He was transported to the hospital, but Hoover would not say if or how he was treated, citing privacy laws.

Helman is being held in County Jail on charges stemming from both incidents. His bail is set at $75,000, and “He will be receiving services as determined necessary for his individualized needs,” Hoover said.

Back in 2010, Helman was arrested for driving nude through the San Roque neighborhood and periodically exiting his car to masturbate. He led police on a high-speed chase and evaded capture for some time, publicly masturbating again, this time near a preschool, before he crashed and was arrested. Helman was sentenced to nine years in prison, based partially on his criminal history that included convictions for drugs, theft, and battery. In 2007, he did a year in jail for threatening to kill a Ventura County prosecutor.

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