Officials said it has been determined that Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in the shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, sustained a shot to his heart by a fellow responding officer, as well as other gunshot wounds from rounds fired by the gunman.
An autopsy revealed Helus was struck by six bullets—five fired by the gunman, and one bullet fired by a California Highway Patrol officer.
Officials said the five shots Helus sustained from the gunman may have been survivable, but the CHP officer’s bullet is believed to be the one that killed him.
Authorities gave updates on their investigation at a news conference Friday.
An autopsy showed Helus was struck by six bullets, including five similar to the large-caliber rounds fired by the gunman.
“These bullets caused serious injuries but potentially survivable injuries,” Chief Medical Examiner Chris R. Young said.
The sixth bullet that struck Helus in the heart was recovered before the autopsy, during surgery at the hospital after the shooting. That bullet, Young said, was confirmed by FBI analysis to be a rifle round fired by a CHP officer who went into the bar with Helus.
“This is sad news and a tragedy, but ultimately this was the most severe injury sustained,” Young said.
Young noted that Helus was wearing a protective vest. Two of the rounds struck the vest, “but only near the edge of the vest, so in my mind, decreasing protection provided,” he said.
“We know that Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a CHP officer bravely entered the bar together, engaged the suspect who was lying in wait before officers arrived,” L.D. Maples, Chief with California Highway Patrol’s Coastal Division, said. “While Sgt. Helus and the officer’s actions prevented the suspect from killing more people, tragically during the fierce but brief firefight that ensued, a round fired by our officer toward the suspect did strike Sgt. Helus.”
Maples said the CHP officer is “currently not on duty.”
The shooting took place on the night of Nov. 7 when a 28-year-old Newbury Park man opened fire on the packed Borderline Bar and Grill, popular with college students and recent graduates from nearby California Lutheran University.
The gunman was later identified as Ian David Long.
“It is important to remember that the horrific circumstances at the Borderline Bar and Grill on that Wednesday night, exactly one month ago today, were caused by the evil action of one individual: the man who murdered twelve people and injured twenty-two others,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at the news conference Friday. “He alone created the violence and he alone bears the responsibility for his course of action.”
Officials said Long died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Young noted that there was no evidence that any of the other victims of the shooting were struck by gunfire from responding officers.
Other Borderline patrons who tried to escape the gunfire by jumping out of windows and diving under tables were left with minor injuries like scrapes and cuts.
Among those killed were a U.S. Navy vet, Pepperdine student, the bar’s bouncer and one of the busboys and food runners working that night.