Deputy died from friendly fire in Thousand Oaks massacre, police say

Deputy died from friendly fire in Thousand Oaks massacre

A sheriff's deputy who responded to the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, last month was accidentally struck and killed by a bullet from a highway patrolman, police said Friday. Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was also shot five times by the 28-year-old gunman, Ian Long, who took his own life, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said. 

The November 7 massacre took place at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Eleven others died in the shooting.

"People were running through the parking lot and jumping out of windows to escape. Many were bleeding from injuries they received while escaping the bar. Shots could be heard as law enforcement officers bravely approached the front of the business," Ayub told reporters.

Sgt. Ron Helus
Sgt. Ron Helus Ventura County Sheriff's Department via AP

When Helus and the patrolman entered the bar, he said, they were attacked by Long. They both retreated, firing their weapons, and Helus suffered the fatal gunshot wound.

Officials didn't have much else to update about the investigation Friday, nothing more on the motive or the exact timeline of events — just the news that broke all their hearts, most of all that of the patrolman, a nine-year veteran, learned of the terrible mistake for the first time Thursday.

Helus was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot, but officials did not say where the bullet entered his body. His wounds from Long's handgun were serious, but potentially survivable, including two that hit Helus on the edge of his vest, said Christopher Young, the county's chief medical examiner.

Ayub said the finding that Helus was killed by another officer did not diminish their heroism. He said no one was to blame but the gunman himself.

Helus was a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and was planning to retire next year. He is survived by his wife and a 24-year-old son.