A La Crosse man turned to his passenger and grabbed a loaded firearm during a traffic stop early Monday as a La Crescent officer approached his car.
“Are you ready for this?” Wyatt Helfrich asked his passenger, according to court records.
Helfrich, 19, fired at officer Ryan Quanrud during the stop for speeding and other infractions about 1:30 a.m. on Hwy. 16 near Miller’s Corner, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Houston County District Court charging him and his passenger with attempted murder and other crimes.
The officer took cover and returned fire with a second officer, Christopher Frick.
Helfrich and passenger, 19-year-old William Wallraff of Holmen, sped off and reached speeds of 100 mph through Hokah as Wallraff fired multiple shots at pursing officers, according to the complaint. One officer in pursuit said the car would slow to lure squads closer before Wallraff fired.
The car struck spike strips and drove into a ditch on Hwy. 44 near Sanden Road. Police arrested the men minutes later after they fled into a cornfield, where they left behind a 20-gauge shotgun, rifle and ammunition.
Helfrich was treated for a minor injury to the back of the neck. Wallraff was not injured.
Neither La Crescent officer was injured, and both are on standard administrative leave.
During interviews, the men said they removed Helfrich’s monitoring bracelet and planned to flee with firearms, which earlier were locked and unloaded in the backseat of the car.
They grew nervous when they saw two officers early Monday at the Kwik Trip in La Crescent and loaded the firearms in the front seat before the traffic stop, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors charged both men with seven crimes, including two counts each of attempted first-degree murder, first and second-degree assault and fleeing police.
Both men are jailed in Houston County; Helfrich on a $500,000 conditional bond or $1 million unconditional bond and Wallraff on a $400,000 conditional bond or $800,000 unconditional bond.
They return to court Aug. 14.
At the time of Monday’s shooting, Helfrich was free on a signature bond with GPS monitoring and house arrest issued for a possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine case in La Crosse County.
Helfrich was on a signature bond in that case when he failed to appear for his preliminary hearing on June 14 and La Crosse County Circuit Judge Elliott Levine issued a warrant for his arrest. He was arrested July 9 for stealing a hat and phone charger from Shopko in Onalaska and a $1,000 cash bond was imposed by Circuit Judge Scott Horne. Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke converted it to a $2,500 signature bond on July 17.
Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating and will turn its findings to the Winona County Attorney’s Office.