Deputy died from friendly fire in California bar gun battle

Blanche Robertson
December 8, 2018

When Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer responded to a shooting last month in Thousand Oaks, Calif., they faced a barrage of gunfire from a suspect.

Ron Helus died from a bullet wound that struck vital organs shot by a California Highway Patrolman who joined him in the gun battle November 7 at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.

The horrific shooting left 12 people dead with others wounded. However, he fired more than 50 rounds and had seven high-capacity, 30-round clips on him - a total of 230 bullets. The sixth and fatal bullet, which hit Helus in the chest, was sacked by a fellow officer. "He alone created the violence and he alone bears the responsibility for his course of action".

"The burden lies exclusively with him (Long), not those who tried to save lives, those who tried to escape, and certainly not with those who died while simply trying to enjoy an evening with friends", Ayub added. The gunman's bullets hit Helus and "caused serious injuries but potentially survivable injuries", Christopher Young, the Ventura County chief medical examiner, said at the same news briefing.

But it was the bullet from a California highway patrolman that struck his heart and killed him, according to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub. "That bullet struck vital organs and was fatal", Ayub said.

Long's motives are still unclear.

"The blame for this tragedy lies with one person: the suspect that entered the Borderline that night with the intent of taking innocent lives", said L.D. Maples, chief of the California Highway Patrol's Coastal Division during today's press conference.

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department, was close to retirement.

Mike Nelson  EPA via Shutterstock
Mike Nelson EPA via Shutterstock

Officials didn't have much else to update about the investigation Friday, nothing more on the motive or the exact timeline of events - just the news that broke all their hearts, most of all that of the patrolman, a nine-year veteran, learned of the awful mistake for the first time Thursday.

He was not now on duty as of Friday.

That sixth bullet was fatal, Ayub said. "The CHP officer dragged Helus out of the building and from the line of fire".

"Ron's wife is amazingly strong", Ayub said.

Stronger armour is available, often at an officer's own expense, but many don't like it, he said, as it can be heavy and cause fatigue. "The mere thought of something like this happening is devastating to all of us and underscores the hard and risky circumstances law enforcement faces, often with only mere seconds to react".

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub asserted this was a "dynamic and chaotic event" and Sgt. Helus was clearly not the intended target.

"There are no words that can be expressed as to the incredible sorrow his family is dealing with", he said.

Officials didn't have much else to update about the investigation on Friday, nothing more on the motive or the exact timeline of events - just the news that broke all their hearts, most of all that of the patrolman, who learned of the awful mistake for the first time on Thursday.

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