Sgt. Ron Helus charged into the Borderline Bar & Grill after the shooting started at about 11:20 Wednesday night.
He was a 29-year-veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, according to his end of watch bio on the department’s website.
But on Wednesday, Helus and a California State Highway Patrol trooper were the first responders to the shooting at the bar in Thousand Oaks filled with nearly 200 college students, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
At least 13 people were killed in the mass shooting, and 10-15 more were injured.
The suspect, who was also found dead in the bar and whose identity has not been released by authorities, fired at them as they entered, hitting Helus several times, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told the newspaper that Helus died “a hero,” and that Helus was hoping to retire from law enforcement next year. Helus and the trooper got inside the bar within 2-3 minutes of the gunshots being reported, CNN reported.
“He gave his all. He went in to save lives — to save other people,” Dean told the Thousand Oaks Acorn, also calling Helus a “hard-working, dedicated Sheriff’s Sergeant.”
Civilians helped the trooper and the deputies behind Helus pull him from the bar, critically wounded, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Helus passed away from his wounds hours later at an area hospital.
“A true cop’s cop. This was in his blood,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN. “He just had this natural instinct for going after crooks. He did it with enthusiasm. My heart goes out to his family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now.”
Helus leaves behind a wife and a son. The Times reports that Helus called his family before going inside Borderline Bar & Grill.
He claimed the neighborhood of West Hills, California, just 18 miles from Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, as his hometown, according to his Facebook profile, which has been refashioned into a “Remembering Ron Helus” page. He lived in nearby Moorpark.
According to photos on the page, Helus loved fishing and the outdoors. He got his master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma, according to his Linkedin profile, and he did firearms training work on the side.