Marine com­bat vet­eran kills 12 in Cal­i­for­nia bar shoot­ing

Au­thor­i­ties said mo­tive for the at­tack is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - KRYSTA FAU­RIA

THOU­SAND OAKS, CALIF. — Us­ing a smoke bomb and a hand­gun, a hooded Marine com­bat vet­eran 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 ter­ror 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 28-year-old Ian David Long, a for­mer ma­chine-gun­ner and vet­eran of the war in Afghanistan who was in­ter­viewed by po­lice at his home last spring af­ter an episode of ag­i­tated be­hav­iour that they were told might be post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Scream­ing in fear, pa­trons rushed for the ex­its, dived un­der ta­bles and used bar stools to smash sec­ond-floor win­dows and jump to safety as gun­fire re­ver­ber­ated through 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.”

The blood­shed was the lat­est in what seems to be a never-end­ing string of mass shoot­ings that are hap­pen­ing with ter­ri­fy­ing fre­quency across the United States.

All morn­ing, peo­ple look­ing for miss­ing friends and rel­a­tives ar­rived at a com­mu­nity cen­tre where au­thor­i­ties and coun­sel­lors were in­form­ing the next of kin of those who died. Many walked past TV cam­eras with blank stares or tears in their eyes. In the park­ing lot, peo­ple com­forted each other with hugs or a pat on the back.

Ja­son Coff­man re­ceived the news that his son Cody, 22, who was about to join the army, was dead. Coff­man broke down as he told re­porters how his last words to his son as he went out that night were not to drink and drive and that he loved him.

“Oh, Cody, I love you, son,” Coff­man sobbed.

“Sis­ter Sis­ter” ac­tress Tam­era Mowry-Hous­ley and her hus­band said their 18-year-old niece Alaina Housely, a stu­dent at nearby Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity, was also among those killed. So was Justin Meek, a 23-year-old re­cent grad­u­ate of Cal Lutheran, ac­cord­ing to the uni­ver­sity.

It was the na­tion’s dead­li­est such at­tack since 17 stu­dents and teach­ers were killed at a Park­land, Florida, high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks af­ter a gun­man mas­sa­cred 11 peo­ple at a sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

Demo­cratic Gov.-elect Gavin New­som, in his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since win­ning of­fice on Tues­day, lamented the vi­o­lence that has come again to Cal­i­for­nia.

“It’s a gun cul­ture,” he said. “You can’t go to a bar or night­club? You can’t go to church or sy­n­a­gogue? It’s in­sane is the only way to de­scribe it. The nor­mal­iza­tion, that’s the only way I can de­scribe it. It’s be­come nor­mal­ized.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised po­lice for their “great brav­ery” in the at­tack and or­dered flags flown at half-staff in hon­our of the vic­tims.

Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-cal­i­bre pis­tol 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 told The As­so­ci­ated Press. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Au­thor­i­ties con­verged on Long’s home in New­bury Park, about five miles from the Border­line bar, in a search 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.”

Long was in the Marines from 2008 to 2013, rose to the rank of cor­po­ral and served in Afghanistan in 2010-11 be­fore he was hon­ourably dis­charged, the mil­i­tary said. Court records show he mar­ried in 2009 and was di­vorced in 2013.

Au­thor­i­ties said he had no crim­i­nal record, but in April of­fi­cers were called to his home, where deputies found him an­gry and act­ing ir­ra­tionally. The sher­iff said of­fi­cers were told he might have PTSD be­cause of his mil­i­tary ser­vice. A men­tal health spe­cial­ist met with him and didn’t feel he needed to be hos­pi­tal­ized.

Tom Han­son, 70, who lives next door to Long and his mother, said Thurs­day that he called the po­lice about six months ago when he heard “heavy-duty bang­ing” and shout­ing com­ing from the Longs’ home.

“I was con­cerned be­cause I knew he had been in the mil­i­tary,” he said.

Han­son said the sher­iff’s deputy who ar­rived took his in­for­ma­tion, but he never learned more about what hap­pened and hadn’t spo­ken to Long since then. He said he was “dumb­founded” by the blood­shed. The gun­man 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 around 11:20 p.m. in re­sponse to sev­eral 911 calls, heard gun­fire and went in­side, the sher­iff said. Helus was im­me­di­ately shot, Dean said.

The high­way pa­trol­man pulled Helus out, then waited as a SWAT team and scores more of­fi­cers ar­rived. Helus died 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 an 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.”

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.

Peo­ple at the bar fled from all ex­its, broke through win­dows and hid in the at­tic and bath­rooms, the sher­iff said. He said they seemed to know what to do.

“Un­for­tu­nately our young peo­ple, peo­ple at night­clubs, have learned that this may hap­pen, and they think about that. For­tu­nately it helped save a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly,” he said.

Shoot­ings of any kind are ex­tremely rare in Thou­sand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 peo­ple about 40 miles (64 kilo­me­tres) from Los An­ge­les, just across the county line.

The Border­line, which has a large dance hall along with sev­eral smaller ar­eas for eat­ing and drink­ing, was hold­ing one of its reg­u­lar “Col­lege Coun­try Nights.”

Nick Stein­wen­der, Cal Lutheran stu­dent body pres­i­dent, told KTLA-TV he im­me­di­ately started re­ceiv­ing mes­sages about the shoot­ing, and he and his room­mate went to the scene to of­fer rides back to cam­pus or moral sup­port.

“It’s go­ing to be a very som­bre day,” Stein­wen­der said. “I know we don’t have all the de­tails in yet, but you know, it just feels like it’s an at­tack on our com­mu­nity. You know, I think it’s go­ing to be some­thing that we’re go­ing to have to come to­gether and move past.”

Around mid­day, the body of the slain sher­iff’s of­fi­cer was taken by mo­tor­cade from the hospi­tal to the coro­ner’s of­fice. Thou­sands of peo­ple stood along the route or pulled over in their ve­hi­cles to watch the hearse pass. Fire­fight­ers use two lad­der trucks to raise a giant Amer­i­can flag over the route.

Helus 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.

“A friend yelled, ‘Ev­ery­body down!’ We were hid­ing be­hind ta­bles try­ing to keep our­selves cov­ered.” SARAH ROSE DESON Sur­vivor

DAVID MC­NEW GETTY IM­AGES

Peo­ple stopped to watch the pro­ces­sion car­ry­ing the body of Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in the shoot­ing at the Border­line Bar and Grill.

MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Los An­ge­les County Deputy Sher­iff Ar­mando Viera con­soles an uniden­ti­fied woman on a free­way over­pass.

Ian David Long: shooter

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