An­other mass shoot­ing in a pub­lic place claims 12 lives

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Zez­ima, Mark Berman and David A. Fahren­thold

THOU­SAND OAKS, CALIF.» It was col­lege night at a coun­try mu­sic bar in the third-safest city in Amer­ica. In­side, peo­ple were line danc­ing. Out­side, a man in black cloth­ing ap­proached the door.

He shot the se­cu­rity guard with a .45-cal­iber hand­gun.

Then he went in­side.

In the next few min­utes, the gun­man — iden­ti­fied by po­lice as 28-year-old Ian David Long — killed 11 other peo­ple at the Border­line Bar & Grill, in­clud­ing a sher­iff’s sergeant who rushed in to stop him.

For many of those in­side, there was a grim ben­e­fit to be­ing young in Amer­ica dur­ing an age of mas­sacres: They knew ex­actly what this was, and they knew ex­actly what to do, in the way that past gen­er­a­tions knew

how to hide from tor­na­does or nu­clear bombs.

“They ran out of back doors, they broke win­dows, they went through win­dows, they hid up in the at­tic, they hid in the bath­room,” Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said. “Un­for­tu­nately, our young peo­ple, peo­ple at night­clubs, have learned that this may hap­pen. They think about that.”

Wit­nesses said some vic­tims stayed, pro­tect­ing friends, and in do­ing so sac­ri­ficed their lives.

The car­nage added Thou­sand Oaks to the seem­ingly end­less list of Amer­i­can cities that have ex­pe­ri­enced a mass shoot­ing. The vi­o­lence came just days af­ter 11 peo­ple were gunned down in a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue, months af­ter 17 stu­dents and staff were mas­sa­cred in a Park­land, Fla., high school, and a year af­ter ram­pages at a Las Ve­gas coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val and in a Suther­land Springs, Texas, church took the lives of a com­bined 84 peo­ple.

At least one sur­vivor of the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing was in the bar Wed­nes­day — again try­ing to en­joy coun­try mu­sic while on a night out — his sec­ond mass shoot­ing in 13 months.

Like in Las Ve­gas and in Suther­land Springs, the shooter in Cal­i­for­nia died of an ap­par­ent sui­cide be­fore pro­vid­ing any ex­pla­na­tion for the at­tack. At the Border­line on Wed­nes­day, Long was found dead in­side an of­fice at the bar.

Wit­nesses said Long did not ut­ter a word to ex­plain why he had cho­sen this place, this night, these peo­ple, this ob­scene and waste­ful end.

When asked by a re­porter what it looked like in­side the venue, Dean re­sponded: “Like hell.”

On Thurs­day, po­lice iden­ti­fied the de­ceased of­fi­cer as Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year vet­eran of the Ven­tura force. Fam­ily mem­bers iden­ti­fied sev­eral other vic­tims, many of whom were in their late teens or early 20s.

Cody Coff­man was 22. His fa­ther, Ja­son Coff­man, said Thurs­day that he had last spo­ken to his son as the younger man left for the night.

“I said, ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ ” Ja­son Coff­man re­called, his voice break­ing with emo­tion. “The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.’ ”

Po­lice said that as many as 15 other peo­ple were in­jured in the at­tack, mostly with cuts from div­ing un­der ta­bles. At least one suf­fered a non­fa­tal gun­shot wound.

Po­lice said they weren’t sure why the gun­man, who lived in nearby New­bury Park, Calif., was drawn to the bar.

Long grew up in the area, played high school var­sity base­ball, and joined the Ma­rine Corps in 2008, the year he grad­u­ated. He served as a ma­chine gun­ner in Afghanistan from Novem­ber 2010 to June 2011 and be­came a cor­po­ral two months later. He left the Ma­rine Corps in 2013, and at­tended Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity at Northridge be­tween 2013 and 2016 and did not grad­u­ate.

A for­mer room­mate said that Long was quiet and prone to un­usual be­hav­ior — like danc­ing alone in his garage to “trance” mu­sic, a kind of elec­tronic dance mu­sic.

In re­cent years, po­lice said they had “sev­eral con­tacts” with Long, mostly for mi­nor events in­clud­ing traf­fic ac­ci­dents. In April, deputies were called to the home Long shared with his mother for a re­ported dis­tur­bance, Dean said. Neigh­bors de­scribed that in­ci­dent as look­ing like a stand­off, with po­lice cars block­ing the street and of­fi­cers tak­ing cover with ri­fles.

On Wed­nes­day evening, there were at least 100 peo­ple in­side the Border­line bar — which de­scribes it­self as Ven­tura County’s largest coun­try dance hall and live mu­sic venue. The city of 130,000, north­west of Los An­ge­les, was ranked “third safest,” based on FBI crime data.

David An­der­son, 23, of New­bury Park had sur­vived the mass shoot­ing at the Route 91 Har­vest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber 2017 that killed 58 in Las Ve­gas. Af­ter that, when he went out, he liked to keep his eyes on the door.

Look­ing at the door Wed­nes­day, he saw Long en­ter.

“I knew ex­actly what it was, the mo­ment it was,” An­der­son said.

Mar­cio Jose Sanchez, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Mourn­ers em­brace Thurs­day out­side the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, where rel­a­tives and friends gath­ered in the af­ter­math of a mass shoot­ing at a coun­try mu­sic bar in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

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