A tragic new development regarding the death of Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus at the Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks last month reveals that he died by a fatal shot from a California Highway Patrol officer, not the shooter.
According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities said in a press conference on Friday that Helus could have survived the shooting had he not been shot in the heart by a CHP officer returning fire. Though the shooter struck Helus with five bullets, those wounds were not deemed fatal.
"This news is extremely difficult for all of us to process and understand," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said.
The horrific shooting left 12 people dead with others wounded. Helus and the California Highway Patrol officer were the first to run into the bar after the 911. They were immediately ambushed by the shooter, who had positioned himself into a tactical position to return fire. In the ensuing chaos, Helus stood between both the shooter and the CHP officer, taking bullets from both sides.
"The two exchanged gunfire with [the shooter], and Helus was shot multiple times," reports the L.A. Times. "The CHP officer dragged Helus out of the building and from the line of fire. Authorities would not say whether the fatal bullet struck Helus from the front or the back."
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said the incident happened in the heat of the moment over a few seconds and that several lives were saved due to their heroics.
"This was something that unfolded just over the course of a few seconds," Ayub said. “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.”
"They were ambushed almost immediately after entering," Ayub said. "They retreated and tried to stop the suspect with their own gunfire. And unfortunately, it was dynamic, there was a lot of movement, there was smoke, it was dark."
The shooter later shot himself in the head.
L.D. Maples, chief of the California Highway Patrol Coastal Division, said the CHP officer who struck Helus with the fatal blow is devastated after hearing the news. Authorities would not release his name; he is a nine-year veteran with a military background.
CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said the agency was "profoundly saddened" by the news that one of their own contributed to the death of Helus. "The mere thought of something like this happening is devastating to all of us and underscores the difficult and dangerous circumstances law enforcement faces, often with only mere seconds to react," he said.
At the time of Helus' death, the Ventura County Sheriff's office hailed him as a hero. At age 54, he had been looking to retire within another year.
Unfortunately, Helus is not the only case of an innocent man dying by friendly fire in recent months. In Chicago, a police officer allegedly killed a black security guard who was holding down a suspected shooter at a bar he worked for.