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Psychiatric evaluation ordered for man accused of shooting at helicopter, police

'May I make a statement?' Harrison County shooting suspect taken to Bourbon County jail

Thomas Field VanMeter, who is suspected of shooting a KU helicopter Monday is transported to Bourbon County jail.
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Thomas Field VanMeter, who is suspected of shooting a KU helicopter Monday is transported to Bourbon County jail.

The man accused of shooting at a Kentucky Utilities helicopter and police has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, court records show.

Earlier this month, Thomas Field VanMeter III was indicted on eight counts of attempted murder, eight counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, one count of first-degree criminal mischief, one count of third-degree criminal mischief, buying/possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

The indictment came days after VanMeter allegedly fired on the helicopter checking electrical lines about 2 p.m. Sept. 11 and forced it to land. No one in the helicopter was harmed and a contracted pilot and a KU employee were rescued by police, according to court records. The shooting prompted Harrison County Schools to delay dismissal while police searched for the culprit.

On the same day of the helicopter attack, VanMeter also fired upon police, police and court records said.

VanMeter was in court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges, court documents showed. In a document filed in Harrison Circuit Court Wednesday, the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center was ordered to examine and report about VanMeter’s competency to stand trial and his mental capacity at the time of the shootings. Treatment also was required. VanMeter must undergo the evaluation by Dec. 1.

VanMeter had a previous violent episode that led to a protective order for some family members, according to court records.

VanMeter’s father, Thomas VanMeter II, filed a domestic violence order against his son in April 2015. According to the court record, VanMeter III entered his dad’s home at 7 a.m. on April 23 while his dad was asleep and struck his father in the back of the head and back about 20 times.

In the petition for the domestic violence order, VanMeter II said his head was bloodied and hand was potentially broken. The son was ordered to stay at least 500 feet away from his father’s workplace and another address, presumably a residence. VanMeter II is a noted consignor and former veterinarian.

The protection order expired on June 28 of this year.

In addition to the psychiatric evaluation, the Kentucky Department of Revenue was subpoenaed for copies of VanMeter’s 2010 to 2016 state tax returns. However, the state department of revenue is resisting the subpoena because of a state law prohibiting government officials from divulging information contained in tax returns.

VanMeter’s attorney, Jim Lowry, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Douglas Miller, commonwealth’s attorney for Harrison County, could not comment on why the Department of Revenue was subpoenaed.

VanMeter is expected to be back in court at 9 a.m. Dec. 5 for a pretrial conference. His Bourbon County jail bail was $3 million cash.

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