Thousand Oaks shooting: Wife of deputy killed in California massacre calls him a hero

Thousand Oaks shooting: Wife of deputy killed in California massacre calls him a hero

Slain Sgt. Ron Helus Proposed to Wife at Thousand Oaks Restaurant That Decades Later Became Scene of Borderline Bar Mass Shooting

American flags are reflected on a window as law enforcement personnel await the arrival of a procession carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus at the Calvary Community Church Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Westlake Village, Calif. Helus was fatally shot while responding to a mass shooting at a country music bar in Southern California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – The sheriff's sergeant who gave his life saving others during a mass shooting last week was remembered warmly Thursday as a deeply religious man devoted to family who could be counted on to never hesitate a moment to put his own life on the line if it meant helping others.

Thousands attended the 90-minute ceremony in Thousand Oaks — including musician Billy Ray Cyrus, who said he told the family before the service, "I'm probably going to have to change the definition of hero. From now on it can just be a picture of Ron Helus."

Several thousand people, including hundreds of law enforcement officers from throughout California, packed the Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village for the emotional, 90-minute service honoring the life of Ron Helus.

The sergeant "gave it his all" as he instinctively ran into the bar when he heard gunfire, but was ultimately killed. Sheriff Geoff Dean said after the mass shooting that Helus "died a hero because he went in to save lives, to save other people."

CBS2 News at 5:00 pm (November 15)

The 54-year-old sheriff's sergeant was shot to death during a Nov. 7 gunfight with a man who was raking a popular Southern California country bar with bullets when Helus ran in to try to stop him.

The gunman killed 12 people before shooting himself to death. But authorities say Helus — the first officer into the bar — saved numerous others by immediately exchanging gunfire with the shooter, giving patrons and employees time to flee.

A family photo during a video montage of Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus with his wife Karen years ago during Memorial service for Sgt. Helus at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California on Nov. 15, 2018. (Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

Among Thursday's mourners was musician Billy Ray Cyrus who said he told the family before the service, "I'm probably going to have to change the definition of hero. From now on it can just be a picture of Ron Helus."

Ventura County Sheriff Biull Ayub addressing the crowd attending the memorial service for Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California on Nov. 15, 2018. (Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

Then, accompanying himself on guitar, Cyrus dedicated his song "Some Gave All" to Helus, singing the words, "Some stood through for the red, white and blue. And some had to fall. And if you ever think of me, think of all your liberties. And recall, some gave all."

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department, is said to have snuck the engagement ring, that was inside of a box, into Karen's purse. The pastor said that when she found the ring, Helus got down on one knee in the restaurant.

The emotional message left the audience in stunned silence until Pastor Steven Day said, "If you'd like to, you can thank him," and the crowd erupted in applause. The audience had also given Helus a standing ovation at the beginning of the service.

Mourners included hundreds of officers from police agencies across the state who stood solemnly outside the church hall as the 54-year-old sheriff's sergeant's flag-draped coffin was wheeled inside. Each offered a crisp salute as it passed by, then joined hundreds of other mourners inside.

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Still more people, including many who had never met Helus, stood outside in the parking lot or lined nearby streets. Others lingered by a huge makeshift memorial featuring flowers, messages and stuffed animals.

"I heard he was a hero. He went in there in the line of duty to try and save people and deal with a crazed man," said Peter Orr of Malibu, who has been staying in a nearby hotel with his dog since his home burned down in one of California's ongoing wildfires. He took off work Thursday to pay his respects.

Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was one of the first officers to respond last week to the crowded Borderline Bar & Grill to confront a gunman on a deadly rampage. When it was all over, the gunman was dead, but so was Helus. He was the last of 13 to die.

Video: A community comes together to say goodbye to Sgt. Ron Helus

They described an avid fisherman, hiker and dirt biker rider who loved his family, God and fly fishing and sharing nature with his 24-year-old son, Jordan. A niece, Lauren Smith recalled how Helus helped teach her to drive, letting her get behind the wheel of his brand new truck and, after she accidentally smashed a side mirror parking it, told her, "Let's just keep this our secret."

Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus remembered at service

Although the 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department took on some of the agency's toughest assignments, working in SWAT, narcotics and investigations, friends said he could often show a playful side as well.

On Thursday, that same community bid the ultimate of farewells to the 29-year police veteran and married father on the cusp of retirement the day he became the 48th officer shot and killed in the line of duty this year.

Sgt. Ron Helus, hero who confronted Borderline Bar & Grill gunman, to be laid to rest

Sometimes, Day said, he'd pull someone over for a minor traffic violation and explain to them what they'd done wrong.

Hours later, thousands lined the streets and bridges as his hearse left the hospital where he was pronounced dead to pay respects to a man who sacrificed his life to save so many others.

Photos: Law Enforcement, Family, Friends Gather to Remember Sgt. Ron Helus

"Then, with his pad in his hand and his pen, he'd say 'OK, you tell me a good joke and I won't write you a ticket.' "

A casket with the body of Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus is carried into the Calvary Community Church on Thu., Nov. 15, 2018, in Westlake Village, Calif.

Other times he'd approach young men with powerful sports cars and tell them not to worry, this avid dirt biker just wanted to look under the hoods and check out their engines. His real reason, Day explained, was to give them a chance to get to know a sheriff's deputy.

Day also read letters from family members, including one who wrote, "If you called him a hero he'd probably laugh at you and say he was doing his job."

“If you called him a hero, hed probably laugh at you and say he was just doing his job,” said Pastor Charlie Maloney.

"You were my husband and best friend. You were always the one who made me laugh and who protected me from all that tried to harm me," she wrote.

Video: Sea of officers salute hero sergeant of Thousand Oaks shooting

Sgt. Ron Helus, slain in Thousand Oaks shooting, honored as true definition of a hero

The two had met in a college anatomy class when Helus helped her dissect a cat. He would ask her to marry him a few years later when they dined at a popular restaurant in Thousand Oaks called Charlie Brown's.

That restaurant has since transitioned into a country bar called the Borderline Bar and Grill, the place packed with young people on last week's "college night" when a gunman opened fire and Helus ran in to save them.

Video: WATCH LIVE: Funeral services are underway for Ventura County Sheriffs Sergeant Ron Helus

"I know that when God saw you enter heaven he said, 'Well done, faithful servant,' " Karen Helus told her husband.

Video: WATCH LIVE: Funeral services are underway for Ventura County Sheriffs Sergeant Ron Helus

THOUSAND OAKS, California (WIAT) — Family and friends say a final farewell today after a deputy was killed in the shooting rampage that took place in California. A memorial service will be held for Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus.

Video: WATCH LIVE: Funeral services are underway for Ventura County Sheriffs Sergeant Ron Helus

Helus was among the first officers to respond to the shooting in Thousand Oaks on November 7. He was shot several times as he confronted the gunman, David Long, who also killed 11 other people. Helus was set to retire next year, after serving 29-years in law enforcement.   

Video: WATCH LIVE: Funeral services are underway for Ventura County Sheriffs Sergeant Ron Helus


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