Widow of Sergeant Slain in Borderline Says Half of Her is Gone, But Community Support Helps Her Live

"The best day of my life happened there and the worst day," she said. Sgt. Ron Helus and his widow Karen were engaged at Borderline.

One day at a time.

That's how Karen Helus says she lives her life, after her husband was shot and killed in the Borderline Bar & Grill massacre one year ago Thursday.

"I feel like I'm doing OK," she said. "But I miss him every day."

Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus spent Nov. 7, 2018, with his wife putting up Christmas decorations. They always decorated early.

When Sgt. Helus left for his night shift, his wife said they looked at each other and did what they always did — they signaled a hand gesture that means "I love you."

"And that was the last time I saw him alive," she said.

Karen said she remembers not listening to Christmas carols that night, but for some reason, reaching for a new app on her phone and listening to the police scanner. She heard the emergency calls and she heard her husband go into the bar — sounds that created images in her mind she says she will never be able to erase.

Now, one year later, after a full year without him, after spending 30 years side-by-side, she says she is grieving but grateful.

"He was amazing and it's weird that he's not here," she said. "Every day I'm like 'Wow, like half of you went away.' You know?"

Karen said she's been back to the Borderline Bar & Grill a few times since the shooting. It's a place with deep history for her and her husband. Before it was Borderline, she said Ron proposed to her in that same building. They would later enjoy their wedding reception in the same place.

"The best day of my life happened there and the worst day," she said. 

The two had plans for life after law enforcement: less stress, more fishing. She said Ron loved to fish with his son, and that "he wanted a pond where he could go in the backyard." 

Since the shooting, the community has embraced Karen as the stoic embodiment of the hero that gave his all so others could survive that terrible night.

"I have so much support that I can't help but get through this," she said, adding that almost daily someone will come to her, hug her and thank her for giving them Ron.

"They just come up to you and hug you and start crying. So happy to be here but sad that he's not here, too," she said. "And they ask me, 'What do we do?' And I say, 'You live a good life. Because he did that for you.'"

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