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Widow of officer who died in 2018 Borderline nightclub attack talks about coping with grief

R. Helus.jpg
Sgt. Ron Helus lost his life in the Borderline mass shooting in November 2018

It’s the 4th anniversary of the deadly attack at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, which left 12 people dead.

Karen Helus was listening to the police scanner the night her husband of nearly 30 years responded to a call of a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill.

Ron Helus was on the scene within minutes, and among the first officers through the door as he tried to stop the rampaging gunman who killed 11 others in the attack.

It would be the last act of the 29-year law enforcement veteran, who was met by a barrage of gunfire from a semi-automatic weapon.

"I heard it happen as it went down. I never turn on the scanner and I had it on that night," said Karen Helus. "I was supposed to hear that. I know I've dealt with that in therapy a little bit."

"I think he went in there thinking he was coming out," said Karen.

Despite being wounded, Helus and a CHP officer returned fire. Sergeant Helus died from his injuries, and it was later determined that a sixth and fatal wound resulted from return fire from the CHP officer.

"He was extremely brave," Karen said. "Once he was hit in the heart in three different places, he went on shooting."

"That's what a hero does and that's who he was," she added.

The actions of Sergeant Helus and the CHP officer, are credited with saving many more lives, as more than 250 people were inside the Borderline Bar and Grill at the time of the shooting, many of them students and young people.

"What helps me the most is remembering what he did and the lives that he saved," she said.

It's thinking about what those young people will go on to achieve which carries Karen through her grief.

"Much as I miss him every day and it's sad sometimes," said Karen.

She says that she finds it hard to directly speak of what happens, and "I just deal with the next day."

Ron Helus had been due to retire months after that fateful night. The couple should have been enjoying their golden years together, having met as college sweethearts.

In the mother of all ironies, it happened in that same building where Ron had proposed to her decades earlier and where they held their wedding reception.

"I think the first time he talked to me was...he put his head on my shoulder from the back of me...and said 'How come you got an A and I got a B. We gotta study!' That's how he asked me out - it was a study date," she remembers.

"We were married for 29 and a half years," said Karen Helus.

What should have been time for Karen, Ron and their family, has been a time of grieving, healing, and – says Karen – gratitude.

"This made me a lot stronger than I thought I could be. It's hard to go through it. I've had a lot of support," she said. "No one gets this kind of support, I'm so grateful."

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award this year, and also won two further first place awards, for Lifestyle Feature and Personality Profile/Interview. Last year, Caroline won first place for Use Of Sound. She also won two Golden Mike Awards this year, for Best News Reporting and Best Entertainment Reporting, as well as a National Arts & Entertainment Award from LA Press Club for One-on-One interview. Caroline started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and she was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter - her proudest production.