The casket of Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus arrives on stage for a memorial service on November 15 in Westlake Village, Calif. He then used a flashlight with a laser sight attached to his.45-caliber semi-automatic pistol as he fired at the establishment, which was filled mostly with young people dancing to country music.
As terrified people scrambled out of broken windows, screaming and bleeding and fleeing a mass shooting inside a California bar, Sgt Ron Helus and a highway patrolman made a decision to try to stop the gunman, running in together with assault-style rifles to what turned out to be an ambush.
While Ayub said specific facets of that shot were still being investigated, he noted that the scene inside the bar was dark, smoke-filled and unfolding rapidly.
Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was struck by five rounds from the suspect's gun and a sixth round from the rifle of a California Highway Patrol officer.
Helus was hit five times by Long, but the injuries were "potentially survivable", Ventura County Medical examiner Dr. Christopher Young said Friday. Authorities also did not mention whether Helus was shot by the CHP officer before or after he was shot by Long.
"Today I'm deeply saddened to inform you that Sgt. Helus was also struck by a sixth bullet, which we now know through forensic analysis from the FBI's crime laboratory, was sacked from the CHP officer's rifle", Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference.
Sheriff Ayub added: 'Both Sgt. Helus and the CHP officer knowingly and willingly went into what can only be described as a combat situation, risking their own lives to save many others and it is a fact that many lives were saved that night'.
"The blame for this tragedy lies with one person: the suspect that entered the Borderline that night with the intent of taking innocent lives", said L.D. Maples, chief of the California Highway Patrol's Coastal Division during today's press conference.
The new sheriff, who took over just days after the shooting, said the news from the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been "extremely difficult" for the department to process. "When we broke the news to our officers, without a script, literally the first words out of each of the officers were 'that poor officer, ' and the Helus family has reacted that way too".
Twelve people, including Sgt. Helus, were killed.
"He had no clue it was coming, was as surprised as all of us", Maples said.
The involved CHP officer is a nine-year veteran of the agency with a military background and was "devastated" by the news, the CHP said.
"Helus was struck five times by gunfire from the suspect, both men quickly retreated and fired their rifles at the suspect", Ayub said.
The sheriff said blame for Helus' death - as well as the other deaths and injuries that resulted from the massacre - rested exclusively with the attacker, who Ayub did not name during his news briefing.
"Whether this was accidental, or a missighting, or perhaps a mistaken identity is something we're still investigating", Ayub said. "In the face of danger, Sgt. Helus courageously upheld the oath he took to lay down his life rather than swerve from the path of duty". The burden lies exclusively with him - not those who tried to save lives.