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Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus Was Nearing Retirement When He Was Killed In Bar Shooting

Nov 8, 2018
Originally published on November 8, 2018 5:41 pm
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We don't yet know all the names of the 12 victims of the shootings, but we do know this one - veteran Ventura County Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus. Helus was one of the first officers to arrive on scene last night as the horrific shooting was unfolding. He was 54. He was shot multiple times as he entered through the front door of the bar. Helus died later at a local hospital. NPR's Eric Westervelt has this remembrance.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: As reports of gunfire started to come in, Sergeant Ron Helus was on the phone with his wife. Here's Ventura Sheriff Geoff Dean.


GEOFF DEAN: Sergeant Helus was having a conversation with his wife on the phone as he does several times during the shift and said to her, hey, I got to go handle a call; I love you; I'll talk to you later.

WESTERVELT: Those were his last words to her. Helus did what he was trained to do. He didn't wait for the SWAT team. He went in. He was struck multiple times by gunfire. A California highway patrol officer who had arrived on-site around the same time, about 11:20 p.m., pulled Helus out of the line of fire. Hospital staff were unable to save him. Sheriff Dean says Helus died a hero trying to save others. His death has deeply shaken this close-knit department.


DEAN: It's awful. Ron was a great guy. He was close to everybody. He was a hard worker, and our hearts are broken all over.

WESTERVELT: Ventura Police Sergeant Eric Buschow worked with Helus on several different police units and assignments. He says the 54-year-old was a trusted colleague and friend to so many in the department. And he says Helus has had been planning to retire in the next year or so. He'd been looking forward to spending more time with his wife, he says, and pursuing his love of fly-fishing, watching that caddisfly gently land on the water on some peaceful stream.


ERIC BUSCHOW: I can imagine he was probably going to do a lot of adventures up in the mountains and finding those fish. And it absolutely pains me that 29 years of serving the residents of Ventura County - he didn't get to enjoy his retirement. I mean, he deserved it. He earned it with blood, sweat and tears. And I'm just - proud to have been able to work with him, and I'm just - this is terrible.

WESTERVELT: Buschow says Helus was known for being unflappable day in and day out in one of the most stressful jobs out there.


BUSCHOW: He's patient, compassionate, calm. I mean, that guy - nothing would get him fired up. You know, he could have somebody yelling right in his face and just calm a situation down. He was cool. And I'm not surprised at all that he was the first one in the door. That was Ron.

WESTERVELT: Sergeant Helus is survived by his wife and a grown son. As his body was transferred from hospital to a funeral home this morning, hundreds of community members and police lined the streets as a procession of police cars and motorcycles led the way in solemn tribute. One man standing on the roadside clutching a large American flag said, I'm here to honor this guy; Sergeant Helus probably saved many lives; it's tragic that things like this keep happening. Eric Westervelt, NPR News.

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