Thousand Oaks, CA – Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Ron Helus was mortally wounded in the line of duty on Wednesday night, as he tried to stop a rampaging gunman from committing mass murder inside a country music club.
"He went in to save lives, to save other people," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said during a press conference, according to CNN.
"He was totally committed, he gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” the sheriff added.
The incident began at approximately 11:20 p.m., when a hooded gunman dressed in black clothing entered the Borderline Bar & Grill, the Associated Press reported.
The establishment was hosting a university student night, and at least 200 patrons were inside at the time of the attack, BBC reported.
The gunman, later identified as David Ian Long, then opened fire, according to KABC.
According to witnesses, patrons inside the bar mostly fell silent and fled to various corners of the building, attempting to hide, CNN reported.
“He didn’t say anything, at least not that we could hear, witness Matthew Estron told NBC News. “Everyone was just trying to get out.”
Others tossed stools through windows and hoisted people out, saving dozens of lives, CNN reported.
Sgt. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the force, was among the first law enforcement officers to respond to the scene, Sheriff Dean said told CBS News early Thursday morning.
“When he heard gunfire, he went in and that’s something [we] would expect from Ron,” he said, according to KCBS.
"He was willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of others," the sheriff noted, according to NBC News. "He ran into danger — he didn't walk."
He was shot multiple times after he entered the building, and was later pulled to safety by a California Highway Patrol trooper, CBS News reported.
Sgt. Helus, 54, was rushed to a local hospital, where he died at approximately 2 a.m. on Thursday.
The gunman murdered eleven other people during the attack, and wounded 10 to 15 more, Sheriff Dean said, according to CNN.
The suspect was later found dead inside the bar.
“When the officers made entry, the suspect was already deceased,” Sheriff Dean said during the press conference. “There are 11 victims. I will not count the suspect as a victim.”
Police have not released his cause of death or a possible motive for the attack.
"It's a horrific scene in there," Sheriff Dean said. "There is blood everywhere.”
“This is, by far, the most horrific thing I’ve seen in my 41 years,” he told NBC News.
The sheriff described Sgt. Helus as a “hardworking, dedicated” public servant, CBS News reported.
"It's so tragic losing Ron," Sheriff Dean said, according to CNN. "We go to the gym together, work out together. it's horrific and terrible and it saddens our hearts."
The married father-of-one has given nearly three decades of his life to his department, and planned to retire in about a year.
President Donald Trump expressed his condolences in the wake of the mass shooting, and thanked law enforcement for their “great bravery.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Ron Helus, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Sergeant Ron Helus, your life mattered.