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U.S. Marshals Service Task Force Officer Awarded Purple Heart


By Emily Williams, Deputy Chief - Public Affairs

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For immediate release

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On January 29, 2024, Task Force Officer (TFO) William “Tank” Helton was presented with the Purple Heart Award from the United States Marshal Service (USMS). Helton showed exceptional courage when he was shot and injured while executing an arrest warrant in Peachtree City, GA with the USMS Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force (SERFTF).

The suspect in the warrant was wanted for murder. He attempted to flee from the back door of the residence, but he was confronted by task force officers and fled back indoors. Unknown to the Task Force, the suspect concealed himself inside the home and planned on ambushing the entire entry team. As TFO Helton breached the front door he was shot by the suspect in the upper leg. 

Helton was able to get himself to safety. Another member of the task force was a medic and was able to apply a tourniquet to Helton’s leg above the wound. The team was then able to move Helton to a safe place for the ambulance to transport him to the nearest hospital. 

Later, it was determined that the round stuck Helton’s pocketknife and shattered before entering his body. While he has undergone surgery, he will have bullet fragments embedded into his leg for the rest of his life. 

TFO Helton has returned to the field executing arrest warrants everyday with the SERFTF. 

“The Marshal Service will be forever thankful for Tank and his tenacity that day,” said the Associate Deputy Director, Silas V. Darden. “We are happy he has healed and is back working with us again in the field.”

The USMS is incredibly grateful for Task Force Officer William “Tank” Helton. He has been incredibly humble throughout this entire experience, but his skills, stature, and decisiveness absolutely saved his own life and no doubt, the lives of other members of the task force working that day. His heroics from this incident are highly appreciated and will be remembered for years to come. 

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The United States Marshals Service (USMS) oversees the nation's regional fugitive task forces, established under the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000. The purpose of regional fugitive task forces is to combine the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend the most dangerous fugitives and assist in high profile investigations.

The Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force (SERFTF) began operations in June of 2003 and was among the first Regional Fugitive Task Forces to become fully operational following the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000. The Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force has partnership agreements with over 36 federal, state, and local agencies, and has 5 fully operational offices. The Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force (SERFTF) has successfully apprehended over 43,000 fugitives since its inception and has made an extraordinary impact on the apprehension of the region’s most dangerous and violent fugitives, always striving to make their communities safer.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


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