Gun­man kills 12, then self

For­mer Ma­rine opens fire at bar crowded with col­lege stu­dents

The Chatham Daily News - - LIFE - KRYSTA FAU­RIA

THOU­SAND OAKS, Calif. — Us­ing a smoke bomb and a hand­gun, a hooded for­mer Ma­rine dressed all in black opened fire dur­ing col­lege night at a coun­try mu­sic bar in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, killing 12 peo­ple and send­ing hun­dreds flee­ing in panic be­fore ap­par­ently tak­ing his own life, au­thor­i­ties said Thurs­day.

Au­thor­i­ties said the mo­tive for the at­tack Wed­nes­day night was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The killer was iden­ti­fied as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old vet­eran who au­thor­i­ties said had an episode of er­ratic be­hav­iour last spring that was thought to be post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der be­cause of his mil­i­tary back­ground.

Scream­ing in fear, pa­trons rushed for the ex­its, ducked un­der ta­bles and hurled barstools to smash sec­ond-floor win­dows and jump to safety as gun­fire erupted at the Border­line Bar & Grill, a hang­out pop­u­lar with stu­dents from nearby Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity.

“I dropped to the floor,” Sarah Rose DeSon told ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica. “A friend yelled, ‘Ev­ery­body down!’ We were hid­ing be­hind ta­bles try­ing to keep our­selves cov­ered.”

The dead in­cluded 11 peo­ple in­side the bar and a vet­eran sher­iff’s sergeant who was the first of­fi­cer in­side the door, Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said.

“It’s a hor­rific scene in there,” Dean said in the park­ing lot. “There’s blood ev­ery­where.”

It was the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in the U.S. since 17 stu­dents and teach­ers were killed at a Park­land, Fla., high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks af­ter a gun­man mas­sa­cred 11 peo­ple at a syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh, Penn.

That, in turn, closely fol­lowed the se­ries of pipe bombs mailed to crit­ics of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-cal­i­bre de­signed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the cham­ber, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff. But it had an ex­tended mag­a­zine — one ca­pa­ble of hold­ing more am­mu­ni­tion — that is il­le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia, Dean said.

The killer also de­ployed a smoke de­vice, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Au­thor­i­ties be­gan a search of Long’s home in New­bury Park, about 8 km from the Border­line bar, for clues to what set him off.

“There’s no in­di­ca­tion that he tar­geted the em­ploy­ees. We haven’t found any cor­re­la­tion,” the sher­iff said. “Maybe there was a mo­tive for this par­tic­u­lar night, but we have no in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to that at all.”

Dean said his depart­ment had sev­eral pre­vi­ous con­tacts with Long, in­clud­ing a call to his home in April, when deputies found him an­gry and act­ing ir­ra­tionally be­cause of what au­thor­i­ties thought might have been PTSD. A men­tal health cri­sis team was called and con­cluded Long did not need to be taken into cus­tody, Dean said.

Dean said the other prior en­coun­ters were a traf­fic ac­ci­dent and an in­ci­dent in which Long was the vic­tim of a bat­tery at a bar.

The gun­man was tall and wear­ing all black with a hood and his face partly cov­ered, wit­nesses told TV sta­tions. He first shot a se­cu­rity guard stand­ing out­side, then went in and opened fire on staff mem­bers and pa­trons, the sher­iff said.

Sher­iff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a pass­ing high­way pa­trol­man ar­rived at the Border­line around 11:20 p.m. in re­sponse to sev­eral 911 calls, heard gun­fire and went in­side, the sher­iff said.

Helus was im­me­di­ately hit with mul­ti­ple gun­shots, Dean said. The high­way pa­trol­man pulled Helus out, then waited as a SWAT team and scores more of­fi­cers ar­rived. Helus died early Thurs­day at a hos­pi­tal.

By the time of­fi­cers en­tered the bar again, the gun­fire had stopped, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff. They found 12 peo­ple dead in­side, in­clud­ing the gun­man, who was dis­cov­ered in of­fice and had ap­par­ently shot him­self, the sher­iff said.

“There’s no doubt that they saved lives by go­ing in there and en­gag­ing with the sus­pect,” said Dean, who was set to re­tire on Fri­day. He praised the slain of­fi­cer — a close friend — as a hero: “He went in there to save peo­ple and paid the ul­ti­mate price.”

In ad­di­tion to the dead, one other per­son was wounded by gun­fire, and as many as 15 oth­ers suf­fered mi­nor in­juries from jump­ing out win­dows or div­ing un­der ta­bles, au­thor­i­ties said.

Shoot­ings of any kind are ex­tremely rare in Thou­sand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 peo­ple about 64 km west of Los An­ge­les, just across the county line.

The Border­line, which in­cludes a large dance hall along with sev­eral smaller ar­eas for eat­ing and drink­ing, was hold­ing its reg­u­lar “Col­lege Coun­try Nights” when the at­tack took place.

The slain sher­iff’s of­fi­cer was a 29-year vet­eran of the force with a wife and son and planned to re­tire in the com­ing year, said the sher­iff, chok­ing back tears.

“Ron was a hard­work­ing, ded­i­cated sher­iff’s sergeant who was to­tally com­mit­ted,” Dean said, “and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero be­cause he went in to save lives.”

MARK J. TERRILL/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple com­fort each other as they sit near the scene where a gun­man opened fire in­side a coun­try dance bar crowded with hun­dreds of peo­ple, killing 12 peo­ple in­clud­ing a deputy who rushed to the scene.

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