Deputy, trying to save others, ‘died a hero,’ sheriff says
Gunfire still crackled at the Borderline Bar and Grill when Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Helus arrived.
Emergency calls flooded 911 after a gunman entered the Thousand Oaks, Calif., bar on Wednesday night, and he methodically killed people on a dance floor scuffed by cowboy boots at a college country night, witnesses later said.
Within minutes, Sgt. Helus responded to the calls along with a highway patrolman. They were prompted by their training that changed after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre: Don’t wait. Confront the shooter.
The officers gained entry. A burst of gunfire hit Helus multiple times. The patrolman pulled Helus “out of the line of gunfire,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters early Thursday, and helped secure the scene for more officers to arrive.
Dean announced the deaths of 11 people in the news conference.
His voice cracked. Helus, he said, was the 12th. He died at a hospital — a year before he was set to retire with 30 years of service.
“He was totally committed, he gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said. “He went in to save lives — to save other people.”
Helus was a resident of nearby Moorpark and is survived by a wife and son, Dean said. Helus was an avid outdoorsman who traversed the serene waters of the San Joaquin River. On some backcountry trips, he would see more bald eagles and deer than people, he said on Facebook.
“I’ve probably had 200 bear and 3 mountain lion encounters,” Helus told a Facebook friend who jokingly asked if he were part animal.
Deputies closed down roads for a morning procession as they escorted Helus’ body from a hospital to the county medical examiner’s office.
“It’s so tragic losing Ron,” Dean said. “We go to the gym together, work out together. It’s horrific and terrible and it saddens our hearts.”
President Donald Trump praised the “great bravery shown by police” on Twitter, adding: “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.”
Sgt. Ron Helus died after responding to the shooting.