Vet­eran who died af­ter fight ‘lifted peo­ple up’

The Sun Herald - - Front Page -


For­mer Se­abee Brad Helsel died for be­ing a good Sa­mar­i­tan.

He was leav­ing a concert at the Mis­sis­sippi Coast Coli­seum when he saw a fight and did what came nat­u­rally to the lover of peace and coun­try.

The Wave­land man and Mans­field, Ohio, na­tive, tried to break up a fight as a crowd was leav­ing the concert from the Coli­seum’s south west park­ing lot on Dec. 3. He was as­saulted and died the next day.

He had at­tended the concert with his wife, their son Caleb, and a cousin named Gary Si­moneaux to hear two bands. The head­liner, Five Finger Death Punch, is known by the video and song “Wrong Side of Heaven,” which fo­cuses on the plight of re­turn­ing mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. Helsel and at least one other man tried to break up the fight, said Kait­lyn Quinn, who says she called 911 af­ter her hus­band Kyle also “jumped out to pull the guys fight­ing apart.”

Helsel’s good Sa­mar­i­tan ef­fort was re­warded with “a sucker punch,” wit­nesses say, by a sus­pect po­lice are try­ing to iden­tity through video sur­veil­lance pic­tures. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are ask­ing any­one who video­taped the in­ci­dent or the sus­pects on their cell­phone to con­tact them.

Helsel was as­saulted about 11:30 p.m. He died of blunt force trauma, Har­ri­son County Coro­ner Gary Har­grove an­nounced Dec. 6. He was 48.

The concert, spon­sored by Gulf­port ra­dio sta­tion 97.9 CPR Rocks, fea­tured FFDP, a heavy-metal band that sup­ports love of vet­er­ans and coun­try, and Break­ing Ben­jamin, a rock band from Las Ve­gas.

Helsel served in the U.S. Navy for eight years, with as­sign­ments tak­ing him to Panama and Hawaii, and had spent 20 years work­ing for Exxon Mo­bil Corp. He worked off-shore and was home ev­ery other week­end.

Helsel and his wife, Angie, loved to go to con­certs, said his sis­ter-in­law, Kel­lie Gunn.

“It was the one thing they spent money on for them­selves.”

Af­ter re­tire­ment from the Navy, Helsel made the most of work­ing off-shore and be­ing home ev­ery other week­end, his fam­ily said. His home was of­ten filled with fam­ily and friends who spent time play­ing cards, horse­shoes, vol­ley­ball and other out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.

Though he was ad­mit­tedly a Yan­kee by birth, he took pride in call­ing him­self a Coas­tian. He had be­come adept a throw­ing a good shrimp boil, craw­fish boil or crab boil and was a mas­ter griller and multi-tasker.

“He could ring a horse­shoe, get a straight flush and cook a steak to per­fec­tion at the same time,” said Gunn, speak­ing on be­half of Helsels’ wife. “He was the cen­ter of a huge hodge­podge of fam­ily and friends.”

He also loved the fam­ily pet, a pig named Ham­let who of­ten pro­vided en­ter­tain­ment for guests, and he rooted for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles and the New Or­leans Saints.

Sur­vivors in­clude his daugh­ters Gabriel and Ari­ane, son Caleb and grand­son Si­las.

One of his chil­dren’s fa­vorite pho­tos is one of Brad with his wife on his shoul­ders at a concert.

“This pho­to­graph epit­o­mized who Brad was,” Gunn said. “He lifted peo­ple up. The pic­ture also shows an­other part of Brad: His com­plete and un­de­ni­able love for his best friend, his wife.”

The cou­ple met while Helsel was sta­tioned at the Naval Con­struc­tion Bat­tal­ion Cen­ter in Gulf­port.

The love be­tween Helsel and his wife is one of the fond­est me­mories Ari­ane will carry with her. He “set the bar high,” show­ing her what love was sup­posed to look like, she said

His son Caleb, with whom he shared a pas­sion for mu­sic, said his fa­ther “was the kind of man that just knew what you needed in that mo­ment whether it be a shoul­der to cry on or joke to make you smile. He was the kind of man I can only hope to one day be­come.”


Helsel’s daugh­ter Gabriele is the mother of his beloved young grand­son. Helsel “never missed an op­por­tu­nity to share an ex­pe­ri­ence with Si­las,” she said.

Gabriele said her fa­ther taught her what it means to be a par­ent, and “how to love some­one so un­con­di­tion­ally that noth­ing can break that bond.”

Helsel was a sur­ro­gate fa­ther to his nephew, Gavin Si­moneaux, whose par­ents were killed when Si­moneaux was 16.

“Brad took me in with­out any hes­i­ta­tion,” said Si­moneaux, who lived with Helsel for three years.

“He made sure to keep me strong af­ter the death of my par­ents,” Si­moneaux said.

“He pushed me to grad­u­ate and be­come a merchant ma­rine. He acted as my fa­ther fig­ure and stepped up dur­ing the worst time in life. Words can never cover ev­ery­thing he has done not only for me, but for ev­ery­one else.”

Fam­ily mem­bers said Helsel was a per­son you could al­ways count on.

“He was that per­son you could sit down and have those talks about life with be­cause he knew how to sit and lis­ten,” Gunn said. “He knew how to hear you with­out judg­ing you.”

Any­one who can help iden­tify two sus­pects shown in sur­veil­lance pho­tos is asked to call the Biloxi Po­lice Depart­ment at 228-392-0641 or Mis­sis­sippi Coast Crime Stop­pers at 1-877-787-5898.

Or give a tip on­line at ms coast crime stop­pers. com.

Tip­sters can re­main anony­mous when con­tact­ing Crime Stop­pers, even if they qual­ify for a cash re­ward.

Cour­tesy Kelly Gunn

Brad Helsel and his fam­ily cel­e­brate their love of coun­try on the Fourth of July.

Biloxi Po­lice Depart­ment

These peo­ple are wanted for ques­tion­ing in an as­sault that led to the death of Brad Helsel of Wave­land af­ter a fight at a rock concert at the Mis­sis­sippi Coast Coli­seum on Dec. 3. Helsel died the next day.

Pho­tos cour­tesy Kel­lie Gunn

Brad and Angie Helsel at a mil­i­tary ball in the mid-1990s while Brad was sta­tioned in Hawaii.

Brad Helsel en­joyed spend­ing time with grand­son Si­las.

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