Ma­rine vet­eran storms Calif. club, killing at least 12

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY SEAN GREENE, ALENE TCHEKM­E­DYIAN AND BRITTNY ME­JIA Los An­ge­les Times

A for­mer U.S. Ma­rine ma­chine gun­ner who may have suf­fered from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der burst into a Thou­sand Oaks bar packed with col­lege stu­dents late Wednes­day night, tossed a smoke bomb into the crowd and opened fire, au­thor­i­ties said.

Eleven peo­ple were killed, in ad­di­tion to a sher­iff’s sergeant re­spond­ing to the scene who was gunned down by the as­sailant min­utes later.

The Border­line Bar and Grill was host­ing line-danc­ing lessons for col­lege stu­dents as young as 18 on Wednes­day night. Crowds of young peo­ple, in­clud­ing par­ties for two women cel­e­brat­ing their 21st birth­days, were drink­ing and danc­ing when the crack of gun­fire echoed through the cav­ernous room about 11:20 p.m.

Ter­ri­fied pa­trons scram­bled for cover as bul­lets flew. Some crouched be­hind pool ta­bles and in bath­room stalls, fum­bling with phones as they tried to call and text their loved ones. Oth­ers used barstools to break sec­ond-story win­dows in an at­tempt to jump to safety.

Nel­lie Wong’s friends at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, Chan­nel Is­lands in Ca­mar­illo had sur­prised her Wednes­day night and taken her out to cel­e­brate her 21st birth­day. As the shooting started, she dived to the floor and hid be­hind a group of ta­bles and barstools, squeez­ing her nose closed with her hand to avoid chok­ing on the smoke.

“I im­me­di­ately stopped mov-

ing, stopped breath­ing,” said Wong, who still wore a bright pink cow­boy hat and a “Happy Birth­day” sash. “Thank good­ness, he didn’t see me at all.”

The shooting left 12 peo­ple dead and 18 oth­ers in­jured, some who were hurt try­ing to es­cape. The sever­ity of their in­juries was not im­me­di­ately known, fire of­fi­cials said.

The sus­pected gun­man, Ian David Long, was found dead of a gun­shot wound in a back room at the bar. The amount of blood in­side the bar made it dif­fi­cult to tell whether he shot him­self or was killed by law en­force­ment, Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said.

Long, 28, lived in New­bury Park, five miles from the dance hall. He drove his mother’s red Toy­ota pickup to the Border­line and did not say any­thing be­fore open­ing fire, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said.

Long was a ma­chine gun­ner in the U.S. Ma­rine Corps, reach­ing the rank of cor­po­ral. He served a seven-month tour in Afghanistan dur­ing his nearly five years in the ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of De­fense.

Neigh­bors on his man­i­cured, leafy street said they sus­pected he had emo­tional is­sues. Deputies who were called to Long’s home in April for a com­plaint of dis­turb­ing the peace said he was irate and was act­ing ir­ra­tionally, Dean said. Men­tal health work­ers de­cided he did not meet the stan­dard for an emer­gency psy­chi­atric hold.

Around 1:30 a.m. Thurs­day, dozens of peo­ple lined the side­walk on Moor­park Road near the bar, their faces il­lu­mi­nated by flash­ing blue and red po­lice lights. Em­ploy­ees and bar pa­trons hud­dled to­gether, cry­ing, hug­ging and ask­ing each other whether there had been word on loved ones who were still in­side.

Thou­sand Oaks res­i­dents said the at­tack had shat­tered their view of the sub­ur­ban area as safe. Sev­eral teenagers said their par­ents were com­fort­able send­ing them to Border­line, next to a golf course and the 101 Free­way, be­cause it was fa­mil­iar and safe.

“This is not some­thing that hap­pens in Thou­sand Oaks,” said Capt. Garo Kured­jian of the Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment. “Thou­sand Oaks is one of the safest com­mu­ni­ties in the United States. For some­thing like that to hit us on our doorstep is devastating.”

This is the sec­ond time this year Thou­sand Oaks has seen vi­o­lence in a crowded area. In March, a man shot and killed his wife be­fore at­tempt­ing to shoot him­self at the Thou­sand Oaks Mall.

The Border­line, a barn­like bar with live mu­sic and danc­ing, is pop­u­lar with col­lege stu­dents and coun­try mu­sic fans in Ven­tura County.

The bar’s pa­trons also fre­quent the Stage­coach coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in In­dio, and some were also sur­vivors of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas that left 58 dead last year.

Ven­tura Sher­iff’s Sgt. Ron Helus had been talk­ing to his wife on the phone, as he of­ten did dur­ing a shift, when he re­ceived a ra­dio call about the shooting, Dean said. Be­fore he rushed to the scene, he told her: “Hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call.”

Helus and a Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cer were the first peo­ple to run into the bar, about four min­utes af­ter the first 911 call, Dean said. Helus was shot mul­ti­ple times, al­most im­me­di­ately, and the CHP of­fi­cer dragged him out of the build­ing and away from the line of fire.

Helus died early Thurs­day morn­ing at a hospi­tal, leav­ing be­hind his wife and a son. He was a 29year vet­eran of the de­part­ment who planned to re­tire in a year or two, Dean said.

About 15 to 20 min­utes passed be­fore a sec­ond group of of­fi­cers burst into the bar and be­gan fir­ing. Long was found dead in a back room.

The shooter was armed with a Glock 21 .45-cal­iber hand­gun, Dean said. A source who was not autho­rized to speak pub­licly said Long legally pur­chased the weapon in Simi Val­ley. The gun is de­signed in Cal­i­for­nia to hold 10 bul­lets, in ad­di­tion to one in the cham­ber.

The shooter’s weapon had an ex­tended magazine, Dean said; he added he did not know how many bul­lets were in the weapon or how many the magazine could ac­tu­ally hold.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests Long worked alone and did not plan other at­tacks, said Paul Dela­court, the as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the FBI’s Los An­ge­les field of­fice. Nam­ing a mo­ti­va­tion for the shooting would be “pre­ma­ture,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to ex­am­in­ing ev­i­dence from the scene, the FBI will in­ter­view wit­nesses, ex­am­ine Long’s dig­i­tal foot­print and re­view video footage from in­side the bar, he said.

Matthew Wen­ner­strom, a Border­line reg­u­lar, said he had been in­side for an hour when he heard gun­fire. He pulled as many peo­ple as he could to the floor and un­der a pool ta­ble, tried to quiet those around him and count the shots.

When the gun­man stopped shooting, pos­si­bly to reload, Wen­ner­strom en­listed oth­ers to help smash some of the bar’s win­dows with chairs, hop­ing to es­cape be­fore the next vol­ley of gun­fire.

“All I could think about was how help­less I was,” Wen­ner­strom said.

A video taken in­side the Border­line dur­ing the shooting and shared on In­sta­gram showed red, pur­ple and green spot­lights flick­er­ing through the smoky air onto the empty dance floor as the sound of gun­shots and screams rang out in the back­ground.

Dur­ing a break in the gun­fire, the man film­ing sprinted to­ward the exit, the video punc­tu­ated by his heavy breath­ing. He shouted, “He’s com­ing out this door!” be­fore mak­ing his es­cape.

In the In­sta­gram post, the man wrote that the gun­man was “shooting the wounded on the ground.”

Large crowds formed out­side the Border­line early Thurs­day morn­ing as friends and fam­ily ar­rived seek­ing news about their loved ones. Some made des­per­ate phone calls, seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about peo­ple still in­side. Oth­ers read out the names of their friends on live tele­vi­sion in­ter­views.

Carl Edgar, 24, of Tarzana said he had about 20 friends in­side the bar, where he is a reg­u­lar. He tried to reach them early Thurs­day, but couldn’t con­tact ev­ery­one. Edgar rea­soned that they may have turned off their phones “to be safe,” he said.

“A lot of my friends sur­vived Route 91,” Edgar said. “If they sur­vived that, they will sur­vive this.”

KENT NISHIMURA TNS

Ja­son Coff­man re­acts to a phone call with other peo­ple wait­ing Thurs­day for news about loved ones miss­ing af­ter the mass shooting in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif. Coff­man’s old­est son, Cody Coff­man, 22, was killed in the shooting.

RMG News via AP

In this im­age taken from video, a vic­tim is treated near the scene of the shooting Wednes­day evening in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

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