Mike Harris | Ventura County Star

Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, killed in the 2018 Borderline mass shooting, was posthumously presented the Congressional Badge of Bravery on Tuesday.

“This honor is reserved for only the most exceptional acts of bravery carried out in the line of duty,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, when presenting the award to Helus’s widow, Karen, and son, Jordan, hugging both. “There is no question that Sgt. Helus earned it.”

Brownley and others said Helus’ actions the night of the shooting, which claimed 12 lives, saved the lives of many others.

The award was presented during a ceremony at the Healing Garden, which honors the victims and survivors of the shooting, at Conejo Creek North Park in Thousand Oaks.

Brownley noted that the Congressional Badge of Bravery, the highest honor bestowed upon law enforcement officers, has been presented to only 104 federal, state and local law enforcement officers nationwide. 

Minutes after the shooting began at the Borderline Bar & Grill on the evening of Nov. 7, 2018, Helus was one of the law enforcement officers who entered the Thousand Oaks country music club in an effort to confront the gunman, a 28-year-old Marine veteran armed with a semiautomatic handgun.

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was shot by the gunman multiple times, but was killed by a friendly fire round from a California Highway Patrol officer who had entered the club with him.

The gunman, a Newbury Park resident, shot and killed 11 club patrons before killing himself with a shot to the head.

Karen Helus said at Tuesday’s ceremony that she had always been aware of her husband’s “integrity and bravery.”

“I’m so thankful to see others recognize these qualities in him,” Karen Helus, dressed in black, said. “While I wish he was here to accept this himself, I’m so proud of his actions and how many people he saved that night.”

The ceremony was attended by about 60 people, many of them uniformed members of the sheriff’s office.

Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña said when Helus entered the Borderline that night, he “fought to save lives.”

“He fired his weapon even after being hit six times,” she said. “I ask you, what more is there to prove bravery?”

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said Helus posthumously receiving the Congressional Badge of Bravery was a “very well-deserved honor.”

“Ron answered the call we all hope would never come,” Ayub told attendees. “He raced to the scene of intense violence at the Borderline Bar & Grill and without hesitation, he went inside to confront evil.”

Ayub continued: “We all know that evil gained the upper hand that evening. We also know that Ron’s selfless, swift and decisive action unquestionably saved lives and stopped the violence.”

The sheriff noted that bravery is not marked by the absence of fear, but rather by deciding something else is more important when fear and danger are present.

“When I think of Ron’s actions that evening, they can only be described as the finest illustration of bravery and courage,” Ayub said.

The badges of bravery are awarded annually by the U.S. Attorney General and presented by the recipients’ Congressional representatives.

According to a long-awaited sheriff’s office report released last week, an investigation into the shooting concluded that the gunman was motivated by “a strong disdain for civilians,” particularly college students, whom he had said should be “wiped off the map.”

The gunman likely targeted the Thousand Oaks bar knowing it was themed “Country College Night” and would li be filled with college students, sheriff’s detectives concluded in their 434-page document.

This story originally appeared in Ventura County Star on July 6, 2021.