Motive unclear; responding officer is among the victims
A 28-year-old combat veteran opened fire in a Southern California country-music dance bar Wednesday during college night, killing 12 before fatally turning the gun on himself.
Hundreds fled the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks in terror.
Police identified the gunman as Marine veteran Ian David Long, who saw action in Afghanistan and earned several military awards. Among the victims was a sheriff ’s sergeant who died at a hospital early Thursday.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff in honor and remembrance of victims. Flags will remain at half-staff until sunset Saturday.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A tall, hooded gunman dressed in black and covering his face with a bandanna opened fire late Wednesday during College Night at a crowded country dance bar in Southern California. He killed 12 people, including a sheriff’s sergeant.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean identified the gunman, who killed himself after the attack, as Ian David Long, 28, a Marine veteran, from Newbury Park, a town inside the Thousand Oaks city limits.
The violence erupted at the Borderline Bar and Grill, a country western dance bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. Hundreds of people fled in terror, including some who used bar stools to break windows and escape.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” said Dean, who choked up at one point while speaking to reporters in the bar’s parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”
The sheriff said police have had “several contacts” with Long in recent years. Most notably, police said, he was “angry and acting a little irrationally” when a mental health crisis team was called to his home earlier this year to investigate a disturbance. The team concluded Long did not need to be taken into custody, he said.
In addition, Long was listed as the victim in a bar skirmish three years ago, Dean said.
Paul Delacourt, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said the crime scene, the gunman’s home and car were being processed for evidence. But he said it was too early to determine a motive for the shootings.
“We’re hoping to paint a picture of the state of mind of the suspect,” Delacourt said.
A Marine corporal, Long served from 2008 to 2013, including a seven-month
“It’s a horrific scene in there. There’s blood everywhere.”
Ventura County sheriff
tour in Afghanistan, according to Marine Corps records. Long earned several awards, including a Combat Action Ribbon and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
In the late-night shooting, the suspect was armed with a legally purchased Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber. But the sheriff said the gun had an extended magazine that is illegal in California.
After spraying bullets for almost three minutes, the gunman entered an office near the front of the bar, where he was found dead of an apparent selfinflicted gunshot wound.
“It appears he walked up to the scene, shot the security guard who was standing outside, then stepped inside,” Dean said. “It appears that he turned to the right and shot several of the other security guards and employees and began opening fire inside the nightclub.”
Pepperdine University said on Twitter that some students from the college were at the scene during the attack.
Eighteen people made their own way to hospitals and two were taken by ambulance, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who was shot after he entered the building, died at a hospital early Thursday.
Helus and a passing highway patrolman were responding to several 911 calls when they arrived at the bar about 11:20 p.m., the sheriff said. They heard gunfire and went inside.
Helus was immediately struck by multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman cleared the perimeter and pulled Helus out and waited as a SWAT team and scores more officers arrived.
The bar, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University, particularly on College Night. The university canceled classes Thursday, although it was not known whether any of its students were among the victims.
Jason Coffman received confirmation 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 were not to drink and drive and that he loved him.
“Oh, Cody, I love you, son,” Coffman sobbed.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at a school in Parkland, Florida, nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Matt Wennerstrom, 20, said the attacker first opened fire on employees working the front desk.
“I grabbed as many people as I could and pulled them down underneath the pool table we were close to until he ran out of bullets for that magazine and had to reload,” he said.
Wennerstrom, a regular customer, said he and other patrons used bar stools to break open a window to help people escape. “We were shuttling as many people out as we could,” he said.
President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset Saturday at the White House and on all public buildings, military posts, naval stations and aboard all U.S. naval vessels. He also directed the flag to be flown at half-staff at all U.S. embassies and military bases and naval stations abroad.
A witness, John Hedge, said he saw the suspect tossing smoke bombs into the front of the restaurant, KABC-TV reported.
“The gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place. I saw him point to the back of the cash register ... and he just kept firing. I ran out the front door,” he said.
Taylor Von Molt, 21, who was line dancing in the bar when the shooting broke out, told CNN the burly gunman was wearing sunglasses and his face was partially covered by a bandanna.
She said she first heard what sounded like a balloon popping until she realized it was gunshots. Von Molt said she fell while rushing toward the exits and was slightly injured attempting to get up. Shots were still being fired when officers arrived.
People watch as a motorcade escorts the body of shooting victim Ron Helus Thursday in Thousand Oaks, California.
Wednesday was College Night at the Borderline Bar and Grill when a gunman burst in and fired at patrons. MARVIN O. JIMENEZ/USA TODAY NETWORK