SARGEANT Ron Helus was on the phone to his wife when reports of a shooting first came through.
The veteran officer, who had served on the force for 29 years and was due to retire in 2019, told her he needed to rush to the scene at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.
"Hey, I got to go handle a call. I love you. I'll talk to you later," he told her.
But it was the last conversation the couple would ever have.
The 54-year-old was shot and killed by gunman Ian David Long after storming the bar at around 11.20pm on Wednesday in an attempt to save innocent lives.
The father-of-one was the first officer to enter the premises, along with a highway patrolman who was passing by.
After hearing gunshots inside the bar, the pair entered the venue but Sgt Helus was immediately hit with a hail of bullets.
The patrolman dragged his injured colleague out, but he died the following morning in a Californian hospital.
Ventura County sheriff Geoff Dean paid tribute to his fallen co-worker and close friend during an emotional media conference following the attack.
He said the death toll may have been even higher were it not for Sgt Helus' bravery.
"Sgt Helus was having a conversation with his wife, as he does several times during the shift, and said to her, 'Hey I've got to go and handle a call, I love you'," he said, according to The Mirror.
"He died a hero. He went in to save lives, to save other people.
"Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff's sergeant who was totally committed and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives."
Another colleague, Sgt Eric Buschow, told CNN Sgt Helus was a "true cop's cop".
"He went in there to save lives. He took decisive action, and it's just a tragic loss for us," he said.
"He had just a natural instinct for going after crooks, and he did it with enthusiasm, with a great deal of intelligence."
Sgt Helus was one of 13 people murdered in the mass shooting, which was America's worst since 17 students and teachers died in the bloody Valentine's Day Parkland school shooting.
According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, the Thousand Oaks massacre is the 307th mass shooting in the United States this year alone.
So far, 328 people have died and 1251 have been injured as a result of mass shootings - incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed - in the US in 2018.
The latest tragedy occurred in the popular country music bar, which was celebrating "college night" and was packed with young people from nearby universities.
It comes just a fortnight after 11 worshippers were gunned down in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
US President Donald Trump responded to the latest slayings on Twitter, praising the "great bravery shown by police".
"God bless all of the victims and families of the victims," he wrote.
The 28-year-old shooter, who also died during the attack, was a returned Afghanistan veteran said to be suffering from PTSD.