On November 7, 2018,
Sergeant Ronald Helus
responded to an active shooter call at a local bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He had been on the phone with his wife when the first reports of gunfire came into the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. It was around 11:20 p.m. and he told his wife he had to go to handle a call. He told her he loved her, hung up and then responded to the scene of the shooting. That phone call would be the last words Sgt. Helus said to his family.
Law enforcement arrived at the shooting scene three minutes after the first 911 call was received. Sgt. Helus was one of the first officers to arrive. He observed at least 100 people fleeing from the bar and also heard gunfire still coming from within the very popular nightspot. The bar is located near several colleges and it was college night. Later, it was reported that there were nearly 200 college students inside the bar.
The male gunman, who was dressed in all black, was armed with a Glock .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun. This weapon usually holds 10 rounds in the magazine, plus one round in the chamber. The gunman, however, used extended magazines in his weapon.
The gunman was a 28-year old ex-Marine with combat experience, in Afghanistan. It is reported that he threw smoke grenades into the large group of people in the bar, apparently wanting to obstruct what they could see. He also used a flashlight and a laser sight which was attached to his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Reports indicate that he killed 12 of the 13 people who he shot. The recently released coroner's report also stated that the gunman stabbed one of the shooting victims in the neck, but it is unclear why he did this.
The gunman was obviously prepared to kill many more people than just the 12 he eventually murdered. He had seven of these 30-round high-capacity magazines with him. He had used just two, and he still had five remaining that were unused.
In California it is reportedly illegal to buy and/or possess these high-capacity magazines. The gunman may have purchased these magazines in a neighboring state, where they are
The Glock handgun used by the gunman was purchased legally
Apparently, without any hesitation at all, Sgt. Helus and another officer, from the California Highway Patrol, entered the bar. When they did they were apparently immediately ambushed by the gunman. After the gunman's initial attack inside the bar he took up a tactical position and waited for law enforcement to arrive. He reportedly had more than 150 bullets left when he stopped shooting patrons of the bar, so he could ambush the arriving officers.
During the vicious exchange of gunfire between the gunman and Sgt. Helus and the CHP officer, Sgt. Helus was shot six times. According to the coroner's report, it is possible that Sgt. Helus might have survived the injuries he received from the initial five bullets that hit him. All of these five bullets were fired by the gunman. But, the sixth bullet, which was fired by the California Highway Patrol officer's rifle, hit Sgt. Helus and killed him. The gunman was
hit by any of the officers' return fire and he eventually shot himself.
To this day, the gunman's motive for this terrible atrocity remains a mystery. The gunman may have suffered from PTSD, but this unproven possibility does
excuse his actions. Millions of military veterans, law enforcement professionals and American civilians too, have PTSD, and they don't go out and murder innocent people.
Although this newsletter is about law enforcement professionals, and many of the issues involving them, I felt it was important for me to briefly mention the other 11 victims that died along with Sgt. Helus that horrible day. They were all victims of a senseless and horrendous act of violence. They each had a lifetime of happiness and prosperity before them and they did not deserve to die the way they did.
Among those killed were the bar's bouncer, who wanted to be a police officer, but couldn't be because of medical reasons. One young girl was a Pepperdine University student. One 22-year old male had been meeting with recruiters and he planned to join the Army. Another 23-year old male was a recent graduate of California Lutheran University, where he majored in Criminal Justice and Criminology. His future plans were to join the U.S. Coast Guard.
Perhaps most ironic, though, was the murder of ex-Marine sergeant Daniel Manrique, who like the gunman, had once deployed to Afghanistan. Now, this ex-Marine had dedicated his life to helping other emotionally scarred veterans. For him to be murdered by another ex-Marine, who may have had PTSD, was so sad and senseless.
And, there was the young man who had survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas, last year on October 1st. He came home from Vegas, but now he was murdered at the California bar.
Sgt. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, by his actions, was indeed a hero. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters, "There's no doubt that they saved lives by going in there and engaging with the suspect."
Sheriff Dean also stated, "He went in to save lives, to save other people." "He was totally committed, he gave his all."
"And tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero."
Sgt. Helus was getting ready to retire soon, probably next year.
Want to make a donation?
If you would like to make a donation to the family of Sergeant Ron Helus, the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association has set up two methods.
Go Fund Me at https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-sgt-ron-helus-family
Or donations can be made by check or electronic deposit to the Ventura County Credit Union Account by mail to 6026 Telephone Road, Ventura, CA. 93003 or Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, 981 S. Victoria, Ventura, CA. 93003
Checks payable to: VCDSA FBO Ron L. Helus
Account Number: 0001914460 01
Routing Number: 322283505
For further information, please contact the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association at firstname.lastname@example.org