• Slain sheriff’s sergeant ‘went in to save lives’
When a gunman opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks 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.
Meek, 23, had majored in criminal justice, school spokeswoman Karin Grennan said.
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 all-around guy.”
Danielle Gallo, who also works at the family-run 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 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 TV’s “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.”