Matthew Mills’ first encounter with Ron Helus was in elementary school, when he saved him from being bullied.
“I was in a bathroom and he stopped it from happening,” Mills remembered after a funeral service for the slain Ventura County Sheriff’s sergeant. “He pulled me out because he knew I lived in the same neighborhood that he did.”
Helus was older than Mills, but they stayed friends through high school.
They trained in martial arts together and Helus even gave him rides during high school when the older man got his first car, a station wagon.
After losing touch with Helus, Mills said he found the sergeant on Facebook and reconnected with him. He said the two chatted and tried to meet up.
That didn’t happen before the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill on Nov. 7.
When Mills found out his friend was among the dead, he said it filled him with sadness.
“It hurt, but as much as it hurt … it didn’t surprise me that he would do that,” Mills said about Helus going into the restaurant during the shooting. “That was just his focus, to protect the community, protect others.”
Mills said he plans on heading to Helus’ favorite place this weekend, Mammoth Lakes. He said he wants to sit by a lake and honor his friend.