Human depravity has existed about as long as we’ve had people. But senseless acts of evil still manage to surprise us with their sheer viciousness.
News of violence in Thousands Oaks, California, has proved no less shocking, despite how depressingly common it has become. And the simultaneous sweetness and valor of a veteran police officer who responded to it is just as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 7 started as an ordinary enough night in the Borderline Bar and Grill. A western-themed establishment, it was considered a safe hangout for college students.
Except it proved anything but safe that particular night. At approximately 11:20 p.m., 28-year-old Marine veteran Ian David Long entered the bar, produced a pistol, and began shooting.
He poured bullets into the front of the venue, a venue with approximately 100 people in it. He also threw a smoke grenade to conceal his assault.
His neighbors suggested that Long suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and police had been called to his home at one point for a domestic disturbance. “I just know he tore (his mother’s) house up,” 77-year-old Richard Berge, who lived nearby, told the Times.
A dozen people perished during the attack, and one of the most poignant losses was that of Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus. He and a California Highway Patrol officer were the first to enter the bar.
Helus was met by a fusillade of shots from Long, several of which struck him. He perished at an area hospital mere hours later.
Long himself also died in the shooting. It’s uncertain, though, whether his life ended in the firefight or he shot himself.
ABC News reported that Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean called Helus a hero who had saved lives. He also recounted a tragic detail that, in any other circumstance, would’ve seemed sweet or commonplace.
According to Dean, Helus spoke to his wife on the phone prior to leaving to confront Long. Dean said that he phoned her “as he does several times during the shift, and said to her, ‘Hey, I got to go handle a call. I love you.’”
Those were the last words the couple would ever share. Helus was a 29-year veteran of the force and slated for retirement the next year.
A sense of shock has swept through the community at large. “Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant,” Dean said.
Public information officer on Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in Thousand Oaks shooting after being first on the scene: “He was a great man. He was a cop’s cop. And we miss him. We miss him already.” https://t.co/109XGLelzj pic.twitter.com/ZleRXYTY18
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 8, 2018
“He was totally committed. He gave his all and tonight. As I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives, to save other people.”
Capt. Garo Kuredjian also added, “He was a great man. He was a cop’s cop, and we miss him.
“We miss him already and we’re in mourning as an agency. We’re in mourning as a community.”
Our hearts go out to this officer’s widow and the families of all of the victims of this tragedy.
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