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California Shooting Victims: Officer Rushed in ‘to Save Lives’

California Shooting Victims: Officer Rushed in ‘to Save Lives’
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People comforted one another early Thursday near the scene of a shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif.CreditCreditMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

When a gunman opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night, a chaotic scene unfolded. People ran. Some dropped to the dance floor. Some hid, others fled from the building.

But 12 people were killed, including a longtime sheriff’s deputy who had rushed into the crowded bar to help, and a 22-year-old patron whose friends said he had tried to help others escape, yelling “Everyone, run!”

[Read here for the latest developments in the Thousand Oaks shooting.]

These are the stories of some of the people who died in the attack.

This story will be updated.

Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the death toll might have been higher if not for Sgt. Ron Helus. As the shooting unfolded, Sergeant Helus ran inside.

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At least 12 people were killed in a shooting late Wednesday at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Borderline Bar and Grill was holding its weekly event for college students.Published OnCreditCreditJenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

“He went in to save lives, to save other people,” Sheriff Geoff Dean said. Before entering the bar, the sheriff said, Sergeant Helus had a conversation with his wife on the phone.

Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN: “I don’t think there is anything more heroic than what he did.”

Sergeant Buschow described Sergeant Helus as “a true cop’s cop.” In 29 years on the force, he worked in various departments, including narcotics and SWAT, his colleague remembered.

“He had a natural instinct going after crooks,” Sergeant Buschow said. “He did it with enthusiasm and a great deal of intelligence.”

Sergeant Helus had been set to retire this year.

He loved being outdoors and fishing with his son in the Sierra Nevada. On his LinkedIn page, he said that in addition to his policing job, he owned a firearms safety training business called Gun Control.

Expressing condolences for those who died in the shooting, Gov. Jerry Brown singled out Sergeant Helus, who he said “took heroic action to save lives last night.”

On Thursday morning, as Sergeant Helus’s body was taken from a hospital to the county medical examiner’s office, members of the sheriff’s office accompanied him in a solemn procession.

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Cody Coffman.Creditvia Agence France-Presse
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Sgt. Ron Helus

Cody Coffman, of Camarillo, Calif., had just turned 22 and was planning to join the Army, said his father, Jason Coffman, who confirmed his son’s death in an interview with reporters that aired on CNN.

A friend, Sarah DeSon, 19, said she believed she survived the shooting because of Mr. Coffman’s quick reaction. “He was protecting everyone,” Ms. DeSon said. “He got up and he just yelled, ‘Everyone, run!’”

Baseball was Mr. Coffman’s passion. He played on his high school team and served as an umpire. He liked spending time with his younger siblings and often went fishing with his father.

“I talked to him last night before he headed out the door,” Jason Coffman said in the interview outside the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, where families had gathered to await information. “First thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’ The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.’”

Kitty Bennett contributed research. Thomas Fuller contributed reporting.

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