York City councilman sees his attack as opportunity


York City Councilman Michael Helfrich found himself brandishing a beer bottle in a city parking lot Sunday afternoon during an encounter with two young teens.

He emerged unscathed from the episode, but hopes the kids who harassed him have learned a lesson.

Helfrich said he was in an alley behind the police station when three youths who were walking in front of him waited for him to go ahead and then started following him.

He said he cut across the parking lot behind the police station to get to his car, which was parked there. He sensed the kids following him and looked back.

At that point, one of them continued up the alley, but the other two were still behind him, about 30 feet away.

"I looked over my shoulder and the one kid said, 'What the f--- are you looking at?'" he recalled.

One youth threatened him with a knife, and he believes both threw chunks of asphalt at him, he said.

At that point, Helfrich, who was near his car, said he could have made his escape. But he chose not to back down. "Why would I run away when there's a kid pulling a knife on me?" he asked, expressing that he wanted to prevent the kids from attacking others in the future.

Wishing to confront the teens, Helfrich took a beer bottle from a six-pack he was carrying and advanced toward them.

The two kids ran away, but one had dropped his phone. Helfrich went for it, he said, because he wanted to be able to track them down later.

As he tried to pick up the phone, he said, the teen with the knife threw another chunk of asphalt at him.

"He didn't want to fight me knife-to-beer bottle," Helfrich said.

A truck pulled into the parking lot, breaking up the scuffle. The kids ran. Helfrich pursued them in his car, and with the help of police, caught up with them, he said.

A talking-to: He said he will press charges only against his main attacker, who he believes is about 13 years old.

Eventually he reached the two kids who were less involved in the attack and gave them a talking-to.

"I told them this is the beginning of them starting a life of crime and the next thing you know, somebody's going to try to get you to join a gang, you'll be selling drugs for the gang and pretty soon you might get shot and killed," he said. "I told them, 'This isn't what you have to do with your lives.'"

Helfrich also took to Facebook to talk about the incident.

"There's no ignoring the fact that I'm a political figure in the city," he said on Monday.

By discussing the incident publicly, he wanted to show that he was following through on his intention to take care of citizens while also protecting the community, he said.

"We need to do more to help kids at risk," he said.

He decided to press charges against the teen who had the knife, he said, because he thought such a bold act indicated the kid needed more than a talking-to, and legal intervention was appropriate.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.