THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) – Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean choked back tears as he described the sheriff’s sergeant killed in a mass shooting at a California bar.
The sheriff said Sgt. Ron Helus undoubtedly saved lives by going in to confront the gunman. He says Helus was the first responder and was immediately hit with multiple gunshots.
He says a highway patrolman pulled out Helus and waited for a SWAT team as scores of other officers converged on the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at about 11:20 p.m.
By the time they entered the bar again the gunfire had stopped, and they found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman. He says Helus was later declared dead at a hospital.
Dean says Helus was his longtime friend and gym partner and planned to retire soon after 29 years with the force. He leaves a wife and son.
The sheriff says he told Helus’ wife “he died a hero because he went in to save lives.”
Survivors of the bar shooting are describing moments of panic and heroism as a gunman turned a dance floor into a killing zone.
Nineteen-year-old Tayler Whitler says she was dancing and her friends were at a table by the door as the gunman opened fire. She says everyone yelled “Get down!” and it was silent for a couple seconds, then she heard “Get up, he’s coming!” and people were trampling on each other to get out.
Nineteen-year-old Erika Sigman found herself hiding with a group of strangers, and they were holding her hands.
She says “there is a lot of bad in this world, but there is also a lot of good and people will help.”
A sheriff says 13 people were killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, including a sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman.