The subject of a police manhunt that came down on a Vernon neighbourhood Wednesday evening (Aug. 19) has a history intertwined in courtrooms across British Columbia.
Vernon police were searching for 30-year-old Robert Gordon Heltman, whose Facebook profile indicates he’s from Armstrong, as he is wanted Canada-wide for breaching conditions of his statutory release.. But when officers finally gained entrance to the Brooks Lane home, he wasn’t there.
While inside, police found and seized a loaded handgun.
Heltman was slapped with a lifetime firearms ban in January 2018 and given jail time after being found guilty of possession of a restricted firearm, controlled substances for the purpose of trafficking, and breaching probation in Prince George.
Heltman’s court records date back to 2009 with incidents in both Armstrong and Vernon, including assault, possession of a weapon and theft under $5,000.
Police, supported by the Southeast District Emergency Response Team, swarmed the lakeside neighbourhood around 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19. Several police vehicles and armed officers clad in camouflage were seen surrounding the residence.
Neighbouring homes were evacuated as a precaution while police tried to make contact. Residents and bypassers watched curiously from Okanagan Landing Road.
“Given the high-risk situation involving a federal offender and the possibility of a firearm,” Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said, “police officers contained the area and activated the South East District Emergency Response Team to assist with clearing the residence.”
Flash bangs were heard around 7:30 p.m., according to witnesses. The event concluded around 8:30 p.m. and Vernon officers confirmed Heltman was still loose.
Ten years ago, Crime Stoppers was seeking information on Heltman as a provincewide warrant was issued for a breach of undertaking, assault and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public, according to a Morning Star report published March 28, 2010.
Five years later, Heltman reappeared on Crime Stopper’s wanted list for failing to comply with probation.
“Heltman should be considered violent,” reads the Crime Stoppers report, published in the Prince George Free Press, April 17, 2015.
Heltman’s Facebook indicates he attended Pleasant Valley Secondary School in Armstrong.
Police continue to search for Heltman and anyone with information regarding the 30-year-old man are urged to contact the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP non-emergency line at 250-545-7171 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.