Cop shot in gunbattle died from friendly fire
Highway patrolman mistakenly hit deputy at mass shooting scene
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — As terrified people scrambled out of broken windows, screaming and bleeding and fleeing a mass shooting inside a California bar, Sgt. Ron Helus and a highway patrolman decided to try to stop the gunman, running in together with assaultstyle rifles to what turned out to be an ambush.
Almost immediately inside the dark and smoky bar, the gunman fired on the officers, hitting Helus five times. They retreated and returned fire.
What happened next is every officer’s worst nightmare: One of the patrolman’s bullets hit his fellow policeman, piercing his heart and killing him.
That Helus was killed by friendly fire emerged for the first time at a somber news conference Friday, exactly one month since 28yearold Ian David Long attacked country music lovers at the Borderline Bar and Grill in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks, killing 12 and wounding 22 others.
Long, who wasn’t hit by either officer’s gunfire, fatally shot himself after the firefight.
Officials didn’t have much else to update about the investigation Friday, nothing more on the motive or the exact timeline of events — just the news that broke all their hearts, most of all that of the patrolman, who learned of the terrible mistake for the first time Thursday.
“I delivered the message to him … He had no clue it was coming,” said L.D. Maples, chief of the California Highway Patrol’s coastal division. “It surprised all of us. He’s devastated.”
The patrolman was only identified as a nineyear veteran of the department. He is on leave.
“We’re trying to take care of him right now,” Maples said.