The deputy killed in Wednesday night’s shooting at a Southern California bar was a 29-year-veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and a year away from retirement, multiple sources reported.
Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was one of 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. He is being hailed as a hero after he was one of the first officers to respond to the shooting.
When Helus got to the club, he and a California Highway Patrol officer heard gunshots, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. According to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, the two officers exchanged fire with the gunman, identified as Ian David Long, 28, a veteran of the Marine Corps.
Helus was shot multiple times, and the California Highway Patrol officer pulled him out of the line of fire. Helus later died at a hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Helus had a reputation as an easygoing officer with a good sense of humor, friends told the Times. The elliptical machine where he usually worked out in Camarillo was empty Thursday, with his photo displayed, the newspaper reported.
"I told his wife he died a hero," Dean told KNBC. "He went in to save lives, to save people."
“I gotta go, I love you,” Helus told his wife, Karen, as he responded to the shooting, the Press-Telegram reported.
“He was an unbelievable man,” Sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian told the Times. “He was a lifetime learner, a trainer, a mentor, a leader. He was a cop’s cop.”
Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow, who started with the department around the same time as Helus, called him an “instinctive cop.”
“He’s a tactician, so I have no doubt he employed the best tactics possible,” Buschow told the Times. “Unfortunately in a chaotic situation like that, you’ve just got to go in. And he did.”
Helus, anticipating his retirement, had started his own business in firearms training, the newspaper reported. Two years ago he earned his master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma’s online program, the Times reported.
Helus leaves behind his wife and his 24-year-old son, Jason.
"He was totally committed. He gave his all. And tonight, he died a hero," Dean said at a news conference Thursday morning. "There is just no way to describe this. It saddens us all and it tears at our hearts.”