Cop shot in gun­bat­tle died from friendly fire

High­way pa­trol­man mis­tak­enly hit deputy at mass shoot­ing scene

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation -

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.

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