Close to midnight Wednesday evening, Sgt. Ron Helus entered the Borderline Bar & Grill, where a gunman was randomly firing into a crowd of hundreds of terrified college students. Helus was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene of the shooting. He responded to the call for help, as he had done for his entire career. Yet this would be his last call.
Helus had been with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for 29 years. He was slated to retire in 2019. Helus was married and was the father of a son. He was on the phone with his wife when 911 calls began. “Hey, I gotta go handle a call. I love you. I’ll talk to you later,” he told her.
Outside the bar, Helus heard the sound of gunfire. He hit the door and was almost immediately shot multiple times by the shooter inside.
Another officer pulled him out of the line of fire. Helus was transported to a hospital, but did not survive.
Sheriff Geoff Dean spoke about his friend’s bravery after the shooting.
“He gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” said Dean. “He went in to save lives, to save people.”
“It’s awful. Ron is a great guy,” said Sheriff Dean. “He was close to everybody. He was a hard worker, and the hearts are broken all over.”
After the gunman shot Helus, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. 12 innocent people were killed in the attack, and many others were wounded.
“There’s no hesitation, he knew what he needed to do, and he went in,” Sgt. Eric Buschow, another who served for decades with Helus, told reporters. “This is just a huge blow, and you know, it’s going to take a long time to heal.”
Ron Helus will be missed by those he served with and those he served. The 54-year-old was more than just a member of the Sheriff’s Department. He was an instructor that taught firearms classes to the community and to his peers. He was a SWAT member, and a leader.
And, on Wednesday night, he made that selfless sacrifice that too many first responders are called to make. He walked into the unknown to save the lives of strangers.