Death toll might have been higher if not for of­fi­cer killed in the at­tack,

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY DANA GOLD­STEIN

When a gun­man opened fire at the Border­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia, on Wed­nes­day night, prompt­ing pa­trons to flee in ter­ror, Sgt. Ron Helus rushed in.

He would not make it out. Helus was killed in the shoot­ing at the crowded coun­try mu­sic bar, be­com­ing one of 12 peo­ple who lost their lives in the at­tack.

His col­leagues in the Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment said that the death toll might have been even higher if not for Helus.

“He went in to save lives, to save other peo­ple,” Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said Thurs­day, adding that Helus was set to re­tire this year. Helus had a con­ver­sa­tion with his wife on the phone be­fore en­ter­ing the bar, the sher­iff said.

“He was a true cop’s cop,” Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN. Buschow said that dur­ing Helus’ 29 years on the force he worked in var­i­ous de­part­ments within the agency, in­clud­ing nar­cotics and SWAT.

“He had a nat­u­ral in­stinct go­ing af­ter crooks,” Buschow said. “He did it with en­thu­si­asm and a great deal of in­tel­li­gence.”

Helus loved the out­doors and en­joyed fish­ing with his son in the Sierra Nevada. On his LinkedIn page, he said that in ad­di­tion to his polic­ing job, he owned a firearms safety train­ing busi­ness called Gun Con­trol.

“I don’t think there is any­thing more heroic than what he did,” Buschow said. “He went in there to save lives.”

Among the oth­ers who died in the shoot­ing: Cody Coff­man: Cody Coff­man had just turned 22 and was plan­ning to join the Army, said his fa­ther, Ja­son Coff­man, who con­firmed his son’s death in an in­ter­view with re­porters that aired on CNN.

Base­ball was his pas­sion. He played on his high school team and served as an um­pire. He liked spend­ing time with his younger sib­lings and of­ten went fish­ing with his fa­ther.

“I talked to him last night be­fore he headed out the door,” Ja­son Coff­man said in the in­ter­view out­side the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, where fam­i­lies had gath­ered to await in­for­ma­tion. “First thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’ The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.’ ”

Justin Meek: Justin Meek had just grad­u­ated in

May from Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Uni­ver­sity, where the cam­pus chapel over­flowed Thurs­day with peo­ple at­tend­ing a ser­vice of mourn­ing, ac­cord­ing to Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports.

Cal Lutheran Pres­i­dent Chris Kim­ball said in a state­ment that Meek was among the dead and had “hero­ically saved lives” in the at­tack, with­out giv­ing de­tails.

He worked as a respite care­giver sup­port­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, said Sharon Fran­cis, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Chan­nel Is­land So­cial Ser­vices. He was hired last sum­mer and mostly worked with kids with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

“Par­ents just adored him. He was able to bond with their kids,” she said. “He was just an al­laround guy.”

Danielle Gallo, who also works at the fam­i­lyrun or­ga­ni­za­tion, said he was ded­i­cated to the kids he worked with.

“You could tell he re­ally had a heart for what he did,” she said, sob­bing.

Alaina Hous­ley: Alaina Hous­ley was just 18, a promis­ing stu­dent at Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity with plans to study law, her fam­ily told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Adam Hous­ley, a for­mer Fox News cor­re­spon­dent, and Tam­era Mowry Hous­ley, an ac­tress known for the 1990s TV se­ries “Sis­ter Sis­ter,” said their niece was killed at the bar where she had gone line danc­ing with friends.

“Alaina was an in­cred­i­ble young woman with so much life ahead of her, and we are dev­as­tated that her life was cut short in this man­ner,” the cou­ple said in a state­ment.

Alaina was bright, pop­u­lar and well-loved, a stu­dent who had a 4.5 grade-point av­er­age since ju­nior high school and earned col­lege schol­ar­ships, said her grand­fa­ther, Art Hous­ley.

She played soc­cer and ten­nis all through high school, stud­ied pi­ano and vi­o­lin, and sang, he said.

“She’s a re­ally good kid,” he said, fight­ing tears, be­fore her rel­a­tives learned their fears of her death were true. “Every­body loves her.”

MARK J. TER­RILL AP

Peo­ple cry as a law en­force­ment mo­tor­cade es­corts the body of Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment Sgt. Ron Helus from the Los Robles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Thurs­day in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

Sgt. Ron Helus

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.