In darkness and chaos, deputy killed by friendly fire


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — As terrified individuals scrambled out of damaged home windows, screaming and bleeding and fleeing a mass taking pictures inside a California bar, Sgt. Ron Helus and a freeway patrolman determined to attempt to cease the gunman, working in along with assault-style rifles to what turned out to be an ambush.

Virtually instantly contained in the darkish and smoky bar, the gunman fired on the officers, hitting Helus 5 occasions. They retreated and returned fireplace.

What occurred subsequent is each officer’s worst nightmare: One of many patrolman’s bullets hit his fellow policeman, piercing his coronary heart and killing him.

That Helus was killed by pleasant fireplace emerged for the primary time at a somber information convention Friday, precisely one month since 28-year-old Ian David Lengthy attacked country-music lovers on the Borderline Bar and Grill within the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks, killing 12 and wounding 22 others.

Lengthy, who wasn’t hit by both officer’s gunfire, fatally shot himself after the firefight.

Officers did not have a lot else to replace concerning the investigation Friday, nothing extra on the motive or the precise timeline of occasions — simply the information that broke all their hearts, most of all that of the patrolman, who discovered of the horrible mistake for the primary time Thursday.

“I delivered the message to him … He had no clue it was coming,” mentioned L.D. Maples, chief of the California Freeway Patrol’s coastal division. “It shocked all of us. He is devastated.”

The patrolman was solely recognized as a nine-year veteran of the division. He’s on depart.

“We’re making an attempt to handle him proper now,” Maples mentioned.

Helus was sporting a bulletproof vest when he was shot, however officers didn’t say the place the bullet entered his physique. His wounds from Lengthy’s handgun had been critical, however probably survivable, together with two that hit Helus on the sting of his vest, mentioned Christopher Younger, the county’s chief medical expert.

Most physique armor worn by cops in the US could be pierced by bullets from an assault rifle, Ventura County Sheriff Invoice Ayub mentioned.

Stronger armor is accessible, usually at an officer’s personal expense, however many do not prefer it, he mentioned, as it may be heavy and trigger fatigue.

The discovering that Helus was killed by one other lawman didn’t diminish the heroism proven by each males, and nobody is accountable however the gunman himself, Ayub mentioned.

“He went there with a plan and a objective and that was to take harmless lives,” Ayub mentioned. “The burden lies solely with him, not with those that tried to avoid wasting lives.”

He known as the state of affairs unavoidable.

“This was a dynamic, chaotic occasion that led to a really transient however livid gunbattle between the killer and the lawmen,” he mentioned. “Sgt. Helus and the CHP officer each knowingly and willingly went into what can solely be described as a fight state of affairs, risking their very own lives to avoid wasting others … They had been ambushed nearly instantly.”

Lengthy threw smoke grenades into the bar, obstructing what staff and patrons may see earlier than he opened fireplace. He used a flashlight with a laser sight hooked up to his .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol as he fired.

Panicked revelers ran for the doorways, dived underneath tables and piled on prime of one another in an effort to dodge the gunfire. Others ran for his or her lives by different exits or broke by home windows and jumped out, injuring themselves within the flight.

Lengthy, a Marine veteran, took a tactical place and lay in anticipate the officers.

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the division, was near retirement when he was killed. He’s survived by a spouse and son.


Related Press writers Brian Melley and John Rogers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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