Ventura Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus lost his life while trying to save hundreds of others when a gunman opened fire late Wednesday night at a Southern California bar.
Sgt. Helus was one of the first on the scene and about three minutes later he was shot as he entered the bar and died at the hospital.
While Helus will certainly be missed by his family and coworkers, his heroic act was something he trained for throughout his career.
“I’ve worked with Ron for 29 years, almost daily,” Tim Hagel, Chief of Police of Thousand Oaks tells PEOPLE.
“He was an amazing man, a cop’s cop. I mean, for real. You always hear ‘he’s a hero, she’s a hero,’ Ron literally… you know, we have patrol briefings like you see on television where the sergeants in there like, ‘Okay, everyone be safe out there!’ This guy gives a half-hour safety tactical briefing to his troops out there every night for 20 years, like you see on television.”
“He was telling officers how to survive, he’s the most tactical sergeant that I’ve ever met in 34 years,” Hagel continued.
Hagel went on to explain that Ron nearly dedicated his entire life to protecting other people.
“Ron represented that measurement of the difference between humanity and crazy crime. He literally came to work every day, he was a master of jiu-jitsu, tactical operations, and his whole life was driven towards humanity.”
“That’s all he did, his whole drive was to get his deputies home every shift, every night. He probably told me that 400 times over the last 20 years. That was his drive. That was Ron’s calling, to protect the community,” Hagel added.
“He was built for being there last night. He was built for it.”
Helus left behind a wife and son, according to ABC News. Moments before his death, Helus phoned his wife to tell her he loved her.
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At least 13 people were killed in the shooting, including Sgt. Helus and the gunman.
Shots were first reported about 11:20 p.m. at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, west of Los Angeles, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters.
Approximately 10 others were shot, the Associated Press reports. Dean said the surviving victims inside the bar had “different levels of injury” and were transported to area hospitals.
Dean said they believe the gunman acted alone. Police are now searching for a motive.
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