Hero cop and beloved son among California bar shooting victims
One was a veteran police officer who didn’t hesitate to run toward danger. Another was a young man who eagerly awaited the birth of his first sister.
They were among 12 people killed in a shooting at a country music bar in Southern California.
Authorities believe the gunman, Ian David Long, ultimately killed himself after opening fire in the Borderline Bar and Grill.
The victims’ stories began to emerge this morning as officials were still reaching out to their families.
It was going to be a “very difficult day for many people,” Thousand Oaks mayor, Andrew Fox said of last night’s attack.
A precession was held as Sergeant Ron Helus’s body was transported from a local hospital to the coroner’s office.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officer was talking to his wife when calls started coming in about a shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill.
“Hey, I got to go handle a call. I love you. I’ll talk to you later,” he told her.
It was the last time she would talk to her husband.
Helus rushed toward the shooting and immediately exchanged fire with the shooter inside the bar, fellow sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Helus was hit multiple times and died at a hospital.
It is understood the experienced officer was due to retire next year.
Sergeant Eric Buschow, who said Helus was a friend, described him as a “cop’s cop.”
“The fact that he was the first in the door doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said.
“He’s just one of those guys that wouldn’t hesitate in a situation.”
Helus took up fly fishing a few years ago and loved pursuing the hobby in the Sierra Nevada mountains with his grown son, Buschow said.
“He was just a great guy, a gentle soul,” Buschow said.
“Patient. Calm no matter what. When you call 911, he’s one of the guys you want showing up.”
Helus was on the SWAT team for much of his career and worked in narcotics and investigations, he said.
“If you were a victim of a crime, you want him investigating the case,” Buschow said. “He would go to the ends of the Earth to find a suspect.”
Thousands of people lined streets and many others pulled over to honour the fallen officer during a sombre 40 kilometre procession that took Helus’ body from hospital to a coroner’s office.
Dean choked back tears talking about Helus and called him a hero.
“He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price,” he said.
Jason Coffman wept as he confirmed to a group of reporters that his eldest son, Cody was among the victims.
The 22-year-old was about to fulfil his dream of serving his country by joining the Army.
Cody adored his siblings — three brothers between ages 6 and 9 — and he couldn’t wait for the birth of a sister, due on November 29, Mr Coffman said.
“Cody was the big brother that my kids need,” he said.
“He was so excited to have his first sister and now she’ll never know ...”
He trailed off, sobbing, then said, “Oh, Cody, I love you, son.”
Mr Coffman said his son was passionate about baseball, serving as an umpire for a little league, and they went fishing together.
“That poor boy would come with me whether he liked it or not,” he said.
“That’s the kind of stuff I am truly going to miss.”
Mr Coffman said he last spoke to his son last night before Cody headed to the bar where the gunman opened fire.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive,’” he said.
“The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.’”
Pepperdine University confirmed 16 of its students were at the Borderline Bar and Grill when Long opened fire.
One student is still unaccounted for and two were treated at a local hospital for injuries.
They released a statement saying counselling and support services are being offered for anyone affected by the tragedy.
The venue, Borderline Bar and Grill, are also fundraising to help the victims.