The heroic sheriff’s deputy who confronted the mass shooter at Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last month was killed by “friendly fire” from the California Highway Patrol officer who entered the bar with him, authorities revealed Friday.
At the news conference on Friday, authorities painted a clearer picture of the events leading to Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus’ death. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, and the CHP officer were the first two to arrive to the scene of the shooting. They entered through the front door and were immediately bombarded with gunfire from Long.
Helus was shot a total of six times, five times by handgun rounds fired by gunman Ian David Long. A sixth bullet came from the rifle of the CHP officer, Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference.
Dr. Christopher Young, the Ventura County Medical Examiner, said Helus was wearing a bulletproof vest and the five .45-caliber bullets fired by Long caused “serious but survivable” injuries. According to Young, the bullet from the CHP officer hit the edge of the vest and struck his heart.
“This is sad news and a tragedy,” Young said. “But, ultimately this was the most severe injury sustained.”
Authorities did not confirm the distance from which Helus was struck by the CHP officer’s bullet and would not reveal whether he was shot from the front or back. Authorities also did not mention whether Helus was shot by the CHP officer before or after he was shot by Long.
Authorities would not name the CHP officer who killed, but L.D. Maples, Chief of the California Highway Patrol Coastal Division, said the officer is a nine-year veteran of the force and described him as “well trained” and a “consummate professional.” Police said he did not realize he had shot Helus and when he was told it came as a “complete surprise.”
Ayub was adamant that the burden lies solely with Long.
“Both Sgt. Helus and the CHP officer knowingly and willingly went into what can only be described as a combat situation, risking their own lives to save many others, and it is a fact that many lives were saved that night,” he said.
Ayub said the tragedy in no way “diminishes heroic actions both men exhibited that night of the shooting.”
Twelve people, including Helus, were killed when Long opened fire in the popular bar during a “college country night” event about 11:20 p.m. on Nov. 8. About 60 people were inside the bar at the time of the shooting, police said.
Ayub said there was no new information on Long’s possible motivation for the shooting. Long, a 28-year-old Marine veteran, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene.
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