Thousand Oaks shooting: Remembering the victims who died in California nightclub

Thousand Oaks shooting: Remembering the victims who died in California nightclub

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Ventura County Sheriffs Office remembers fallen colleague Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed after responding to calls of gunshots at Californias Borderline Bar & Grill.

The California sheriff's sergeant first on the scene at Wednesday night's mass shooting heard gunfire booming inside the bar and instinctively ran into the crowded venue — where he "died a hero," one of 12 people killed by a former Marine who ended the massacre by committing suicide.

His Facebook profile listed him as a veteran of the Navy. According to a 2009 article in his hometown newspaper, the Thousand Oaks Acorn, he was also an Eagle Scout. Under a photo of the then-18-year-old Orfanos, the newspaper reported that his Eagle Scout project involved public safety at Thousand Oaks High School, and that he’d earned it as a member of Troop No. 765 of Redeemer Lutheran Church.

Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus – who was nearing retirement in about a year — "gave it his all" but was shot multiple times by 28-year-old gunman Ian David Long and later succumbed to his injuries at a hospital, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.

The first reports of shots fired at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks came in around 11:20 p.m. on a night the packed bar was hosting a special "College Country Night" event. Dean said Helus made one last call before heading to the scene: to his wife.

“And I dont want prayers, I dont want thoughts, I want gun control,” Schmidt-Orfanos said, her voice breaking with the rawness of her emotions. “And I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns!”

California mass shooting: Telemachus Orfanos survived Las Vegas massacre only to die in Thousand Oaks carnage

Sgt. Ron Helus was among the 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire inside Borderline Bar and Grill. (Ventura County Sheriffs Office)

Telemachus Orfanos, who survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre in Las Vegas a year ago, was again with friends and fans of country music when he was shot and killed in the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday.

Helus was having a conversation with his wife on the phone at the time he got the call about the shooting, as he does several times during his the shift, according to Dean.

Police report 13 people dead in California shooting

"He said to her, 'I gotta go handle a call, I love you. I'll talk to you later,'" he told reporters.

The sheriff said it was only three minutes later that Helus made entry to the bar with two California highway patrol officers. The cops believed there were other victims still trapped in the bar, but as Helus entered the front door, he was struck "multiple times" by gunfire.

“They knew they had to take action, and they went in and did what they had to do," Dean said.

Twelve people were killed in the Borderline carnage, including a sheriffs deputy described as a “hero.” The gunman was found inside, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"You know we go to the gym together, work out together, and its horrific and terrible and it saddens our heart," said Dean, who appeared visibly emotional and on the verge of tears.

"There's just no way to describe this," he said. "It saddens us all and it tears at our hearts and emotions as it should."

Telemachus Orfanos was a U.S. Navy veteran with a thick beard, an easy smile and a gladiator helmet tattoo.

His colleague, Sgt. Julie Novak, told "FOX & friends" that Helus was "an amazing guy" who loved helping people.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told the media that 911 had received multiple calls that a shooting was taken place at the Borderline Bar and Grill at around 11:20 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday night. He identified the sheriffs sergeant who died as Ron Helus. He said that the suspect, who has not been identified but is thought to have acted alone, was dead when more officers arrived on the scene. Helus died at a local hospital; the bodies of the other 11 were found at the bar when other officers arrived.

"He probably should have retired a couple years ago, he could have, but he stayed on because he loved the fight," Novak said. "He loved helping people, he loved protecting people. He did exactly that tonight."

Ventura County Sheriffs Captain Garo Kuredjian said that there were hundreds of people in the Borderline bar at the time of the shooting, the New York Times reported. The bar is located near Pepperdine University; Wednesday nights are College Country Night, according to the bars website. The school tweeted that several of its students were known to be at the bar at the time of the shooting.

Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus was a 29-year veteran of the department, and was planning on pursuing his doctorate degree, according to his LinkedIn. (Facebook)

Novaks said that Helus went into the building with "no idea" what to expect — only knowing he wanted to help those inside.

One witness to the shooting, Matt Wennerstrom, told reporters that the shooter had a handgun and that he had first noticed him opening fire on employees at the bars front desk. He said he and other patrons had smashed some of the bars windows and helped other people escape through them.

The California Highway Patrol officers that accompanied Helus into the bar ended up rescuing him when Long opened fire.

A lot of people in the Route 91 situation go here, Chandler Gunn, who went to the bar after his mother informed him of the shooting, told the Los Angeles Times.Theres people that live a whole lifetime without seeing this, and then theres people that have seen it twice.

Video: Video filmed inside Thousand Oaks bar during shooting

Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus was looking to retire in the next year or so, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. (Facebook.)

Ventura County Sheriffs office Capt. Garo Kuredjian says the first reports of gun shots happened at 11:20pm Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles.

California shooting survivor also survived Las Vegas shooting

Helus' LinkedIn page showed he was an FBI certified firearms instructor and a POST — Peace Officer's Standards and Training — instructor. He earned a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma, and had planned to pursue a doctorate degree in the "near future."

"I have thousands of hours of specialized training," he wrote." I work or have worked, the following assignments: Custody; patrol (Deputy, Senior Deputy, Sergeant); SWAT; all aspects of firearms, less lethal, and chemical agents instruction; investigations; narcotics; and wellness advisor."

This was College Country night at the bar, where police say there were hundreds of people inside during the shooting.

Tyler Spady describes the terrifying moment the gunman aimed at the crowd he was in at Californias Borderline Bar & Grill.

"Our hearts are broken," the couple said in a joint statement. "We just learned that our niece Alaina was one of the victims of last night’s shooting at Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks. Alaina was an incredible young woman with so much life ahead of her and we are devastated that her life was cut short in this manner. We thank everyone for your prayers and ask for privacy at this time."

In a series of tweets, President Trump praised Helus and the "great bravery shown by police."

“Dan’s life was dedicated to serving others, during his military career and beyond,” said John Pinter, executive director of Team RWB. “We offer our deepest condolences to the Manrique family and ask that our Eagles around the world join us in keeping all those impacted by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.”

"California Highway Patrol was on scene within 3 minutes, with first officer to enter shot numerous times," the president said. "That Sheriff’s Sergeant died in the hospital. God bless all of the victims and families of the victims. Thank you to Law Enforcement."

"The thoughts of every #NYPD member this morning are with the families & colleagues of all those killed or injured in the shooting inside a Thousand Oaks, Calif., bar — 12 innocent lives taken, including the first Ventura County cop on the scene: Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran," New York Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said.

Helus, a veteran of 29 years, and a patrolman entered the bar after hearing gunshots. When they went through the front door, Helus was struck multiple times by gunfire. The patrolman rescued Helus from the line of gunfire and he was taken to a local hospital, where he died early Thursday.

Video: At least 11 injured in shooting at California bar

Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman were responding to several 911 calls late Wednesday night when they showed up at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

"Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff sergeant," Dean said while holding back tears. "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."

Thousand Oaks shooting: These are the victims and their stories

It was "college night" at the bar, and many students were there to learn the country two-step.

But when Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer entered the bar about 11:20 p.m., gunshots were already piercing the room. He and the CHP officer went inside, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, who held an emotional news conference outside the bar early Thursday morning.

Video: 13 people, including gunman, dead in shooting at California bar

Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman cleared the perimeter and pulled Helus out.

By the time they entered the bar again the gunfire had stopped, and they found 12 people dead inside, including Helus and the gunman. A 24-mile procession was held for Helus before noon, as a hearse carried his body from the bar to the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office. Firefighters, police and school children saluted the caravan as it passed by.

Among the victims was Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed after responding to the scene of the attack. Helus had served Ventura County for 29 years and was planning to retire in a year or so, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.

"Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff's sergeant who was totally committed," Dean said, choking back a few tears and clearing his throat.  "And tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives."

Then three months later, 10 people were shot and killed at Santa Fe High School in southeastern Texas by alleged gunman Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who was a student at the school. Eight of those victims were students, and the other two were teachers.

Law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Ian David Long of Newbury Park, a 28-year-old ex-Marine who used a .45-caliber Glock handgun. He suffered from PTSD.

When Long entered, people screamed and fled to all corners of the bar, while a few people threw barstools through the windows and helped dozens to escape, witnesses said.

Shootings of any kind are very rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.

The news struck Helus' work family hard. Capt. Kuredijan Long described his slain friend as a leader, a "lifelong learner" and a "workout fanatic." 

Helus was a 29-year veteran of the force with a wife and grown son and planned to retire in the coming year, said the sheriff, who choked back tears several times as he talked about a man who was also his longtime friend.

A friend, Sgt. Eric Buschow, said Helus took on some of the toughest assignments, was on the SWAT team for much of his career and worked in narcotics and investigations.

The sheriff said Helus told her, "Hey I gotta go handle a call. I love you. I'll talk to you later."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Gina Silva and Gigi Graciette reported from Thousand Oaks, Calif. Lisa Fernandez wrote from Oakland, Calif. 

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