The fatal bullet that struck Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus during a chaotic shooting scene inside Borderline Bar and Grill in November was fired from a California Highway Patrol officer’s rifle, authorities said Friday.
Helus was hit five times by gunfire from Ian David Long, 28, who was armed with a knife and a .45-caliber Glock handgun with a laser sight attached as he stormed into the Thousand Oaks business.
However, a coroner’s official said Helus might have been able to survive those injuries. The sixth and fatal round, which struck Helus in the heart, was fired from a fellow officer’s gun.
“This news is extremely difficult for all of us to process and understand,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said.
The information provided by authorities comes on the one-month anniversary of the horrific shooting that killed 12 people and wounded others.
The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students on Nov. 7 when the crack of gunfire echoed through the business about 11:20 p.m. Long immediately tossed smoke bombs and fired two of his seven high-capacity magazines that packed 30 shots each into the crowd as patrons tried to escape, Ayub said last month.
Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were the first people to run into the bar, minutes after the first 911 call. Long, who was set up in a tactical position to prepare for responding officers, immediately ambushed them. When they stormed the bar, Helus was positioned between Long and the officer, authorities said.
The two exchanged gunfire with Long, and Helus was shot multiple 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.
"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.”
Long later was found inside the bar with a single gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy determined he had shot himself, authorities said.
L.D. Maples, chief of the California Highway Patrol Coastal Division, said he informed the officer Thursday that the bullet from his rifle had fatally struck Helus. The officer was devastated, he said.
The nine-year veteran of the CHP, who has a military background, is taking some voluntary time off. His name has not been released.
CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said the agency was "profoundly saddened" to learn of the new developments and extended condolences to Helus' family, friends and colleagues.
"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.