THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Sgt. Ron Helus was one of 12 people killed by a gunman inside a Ventura County nightclub late Wednesday, but to his comrades, he was a family man, a fisherman and an "excellent street cop."
Helus and two California Highway Patrol officers immediately responded to reports of a shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks around 11:20 p.m. local time, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
The 54-year-old sergeant went in and was met with gunfire. Although the two CHP officers were able to pull him out, he had already been shot multiple times and was later pronounced dead.
When additional law enforcement officers responded, eleven other victims and the gunman were found dead inside. A Sheriff's Department official at the scene told PIX11 sister station KTLA at least 18 others were wounded. The extent of their injuries remains unknown.
"I’m still in shock. I just can’t even believe it," the official said.
He described Helus as a family man, a mountain lover and fisherman.
Helus had been with the Sheriff's Department for nearly three decades, and planned to retire within the year, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said, holding back tears, during an early morning news conference Thursday.
The sergeant had a wife and son, according to Dean, who said he was longtime friends with Helus.
The sheriff told the Associated Press he told Helus' wife "he died a hero because he went in to save lives."
A fellow cop told KTLA Helus had worked narcotics, the SWAT team and investigative assignments during his decades on the force.
"He’s done just about all you can do as a cop. ... An excellent street cop. His tactics were sound," the officer said. "He had a big heart. Just a great guy. We’re all hurting,” his fellow officer said.
Officials have not yet released information about the other victims.