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Nov. 8, 2018 / 12:34 PM GMT / Updated 7:18 PM GMT

By Erik Ortiz

Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus was used to running toward danger.

As a 29-year veteran of the department and a member of its SWAT team for several years, Helus was one of the first officers to rush inside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday to answer the call of an active shooter.

He exchanged gunfire amid the chaos, authorities said, and was struck multiple times before another officer dragged him away from the line of fire. He later died at the hospital.

Sheriff Geoff Dean choked back tears during an early-morning news conference, noting how Helus — who had a wife and son — risked his life when he arrived within three minutes of the first reports of gunfire.

Image: Sgt. Ron Helus
Ventura County officer Sgt. Ron Helus.Santa Barbara County Sheriff

Eleven others inside were killed, but officials feared the death toll could have been higher if Helus hadn’t intervened. The gunman is believed to have killed himself inside the venue, Dean said.

Helus “gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said. “He went in to save lives, to save people.”

Dean added that he would often work out with Helus at the gym, and he was about a year away from retirement.

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