Sgt. Ron Helus, the Ventura County sheriff’s officer killed in a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., was a father and a veteran officer who was preparing to retire within the next year.
Helus and a highway patrolman were the first officers on the scene late Wednesday at Borderline Bar & Grill, where a lone gunman opened fire on the crowd at approximately 11:20 p.m. PT, (2:20 a.m. ET Thursday) officials said.
Helus responded to the incident and was shot multiple times upon entering the bar, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. The patrolman pulled Helus to safety and transported to hospital where he died of his injuries early Thursday.
“He died a hero because he went in to save lives,” Dean said.
Eleven other people were killed and a dozen were injured inside the bar, which was hosting College Country Night on Wednesday, officials said. The lone gunman also died. He was later identified as Ian David Long, 29.
Helus is survived by a wife and an adult son, Dean said. The sheriff said Helus was a longtime friend and gym partner.
“Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant,” Dean said. “He gave his all.”
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A LinkedIn page appearing to belong to Helus shows he was a certified firearms instructor with “thousands of hours of specialized training.” He had a master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma, and intended to get his doctorate at some point in the future, the page says.
Helus served in several law enforcement roles throughout his career, including SWAT, narcotics and patrol, according to his LinkedIn page.
Sgt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said Helus was a smart and energetic officer.
“He was just a great guy, a gentle soul,” Buschow told The Associated Press. “Patient. Calm no matter what. When you call 911, he’s one of the guys you want showing up.”
Helus loved to go fly fishing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with his son, according to Buschow, who worked with him for 29 years.
Helus’s Facebook page shows he was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and shooting. The account had been converted to a memorial page by Thursday morning.
Helus also owned and operated a firearms training and instruction business in California. Helus wrote on his website that he’s an avid shooter with decades of experience using a wide range of firearms.
Dozens of people offered their condolences through the company’s Facebook page Thursday morning.
U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Helus for his “great bravery” on Twitter after the shooting.
“God bless all of the victims and families of the victims,” he tweeted. “Thank you to Law Enforcement.”
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California praised Helus as a “true hero” in a tweet Thursday morning.
—With files from The Associated Press