Ma­rine com­bat vet kills 12 in Cal­i­for­nia bar

Dead in­clude man who sur­vived Las Ve­gas mas­sacre, sher­iff who ran into the fray to help

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRYSTA FAU­RIA and JONATHAN J. COOPER The As­so­ci­ated Press

THOU­SAND OAKS, Calif. — Ter­ri­fied pa­trons hurled barstools through win­dows to es­cape or threw their bod­ies pro­tec­tively on top of friends as a Ma­rine com­bat vet­eran killed 12 peo­ple at a coun­try mu­sic bar in an at­tack that added Thou­sand Oaks to the tragic ros­ter of Amer­i­can cities trau­ma­tized by mass shoot­ings.

Dressed all in black with his hood pulled up, the gun­man ap­par­ently took his own life as scores of po­lice con­verged on the Border­line Bar and Grill in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

The mo­tive for the ram­page late Wed­nes­day night was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The killer, Ian David Long, 28, was a for­mer ma­chine gun­ner and Afghanistan war vet­eran who was in­ter­viewed by po­lice at his home last spring af­ter an episode of ag­i­tated be­hav­ior that au­thor­i­ties were told might be post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Open­ing fire with a hand­gun with an il­le­gal, ex­tra-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zine, Long shot a se­cu­rity guard out­side the bar and then went in and took aim at em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers, au­thor­i­ties said. He also used a smoke bomb, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The dead in­cluded a man who had sur­vived last year’s mas­sacre in Las Ve­gas, a vet­eran sher­iff’s deputy who rushed in to con­front the gun­man, a 22-year-old man who planned to join the Army, a fresh­man at nearby Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity and a re­cent Cal Lutheran grad­u­ate.

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

Sur­vivors of the ram­page — mostly young peo­ple who had gone out for col­lege night at the Border­line, a hang­out pop­u­lar with stu­dents from nearby Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Uni­ver­sity and other schools — seemed to know what to do, hav­ing come of age in an era of ac­tive-shooter drills and deadly

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want those bas­tards in Con­gress — they need to pass gun con­trol so no one else ” has a child that doesn’t come home. — Su­san Sch­midt-Or­fanos, whose son Telemachus Or­fanos sur­vived the Ve­gas shoot­ing only to die less than 10 min­utes from his home

ram­pages hap­pen­ing with ter­ri­fy­ing fre­quency.

For some it was not a new ex­pe­ri­ence. Sur­vivors and their rel­a­tives said sev­eral peo­ple who were at the bar Thurs­day had been at the out­door coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas last year where a gun­man in a high-rise ho­tel killed 58 peo­ple.

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts,” said Su­san Sch­midt-Or­fanos, whose son Telemachus Or­fanos sur­vived the Ve­gas shoot­ing only to die less than 10 min­utes from his home. “I want those bas­tards in Con­gress — they need to pass gun con­trol so no one else has a child that doesn’t come home.”

Many of the es­ti­mated 150 pa­trons at the Border­line dived un­der ta­bles, ran for ex­its, broke through win­dows or hid in the at­tic and bath­rooms, au­thor­i­ties and wit­nesses said.

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

Matt Wen­ner­strom said he in­stinc­tively pulled peo­ple be­hind a pool ta­ble, and he and friends shielded women with their bod­ies af­ter hear­ing the shots. When the gun­man paused to reload, Wen­ner­strom said, he and oth­ers shat­tered win­dows with barstools and helped about 30 peo­ple es­cape. He heard an­other vol­ley of shots once he was safely out­side.

“All I wanted to do was get as many peo­ple out of there as pos­si­ble,” he told KABC-TV. “I know where I’m go­ing if I die, so I was not wor­ried.”

A video posted on In­sta­gram af­ter the shoot­ing by one of the pa­trons shows an empty dance floor with the sound of win­dows shat­ter­ing in the back­ground. As a sil­hou­et­ted fig­ure comes through a door­way, the cam­era turns er­rat­i­cally and 10 gun­shots ring out.

“I looked him in his eyes while he killed my friends,” Dal­las Knapp wrote on his post. “I hope he rots in hell for eter­nity.”

The tragedy left a com­mu­nity that is an­nu­ally listed as one of the safest cities in Amer­ica reel­ing. Shoot­ings of any kind are ex­tremely rare in Thou­sand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 peo­ple about 40 miles from Los An­ge­les, just across the county line.

Mourn­ers gath­ered for a vigil on Wed­nes­day evening as smoke from a fast-mov­ing, nearby wild­fire bil­lowed over them.

Ear­lier, peo­ple stood in line for hours to give blood. All morn­ing, peo­ple look­ing for miss­ing friends and rel­a­tives ar­rived at a com­mu­nity cen­ter where au­thor­i­ties and coun­selors were in­form­ing the nextof-kin of those who died. Many peo­ple walked past TV cam­eras with blank stares or tears in their eyes. In the park­ing lot, some 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.

It was the na­tion’s dead­li­est such at­tack 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.

Demo­cratic Gov.-elect Gavin New­som, in his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since win­ning of­fice on Tues­day, lamented the vi­o­lence that has re­turned 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 honor of the vic­tims.

Au­thor­i­ties searched Long’s home in New­bury Park, about 5 miles 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.”

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 hon­or­ably 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 he called the po­lice about six months ago when he heard “heavy-duty bang­ing” and shout­ing com­ing from the Longs’ home.

“Some­body has missed some­thing here,” his wife, Julie Han­son, said. “This woman has to know that this child needed help.”

Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-cal­iber 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.

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

The high­way pa­trol­man pulled Helus out, then waited as a SWAT team and other of­fi­cers ar­rived. Helus died at a hos­pi­tal.

By the time of­fi­cers en­tered the bar again — about 15 to 20 min­utes later, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff’s of­fice — the gun­fire had stopped. They found 12 peo­ple dead in­side, in­clud­ing the gun­man, who was dis­cov­ered in an of­fice, 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 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.

Five off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers who were at the bar also helped peo­ple es­cape, au­thor­i­ties said.

For sev­eral hours af­ter the vi­o­lence, sur­vivors gath­ered in the dark, some sob­bing and hug­ging as they awaited word on the fate of friends as am­bu­lances idled nearby. Sev­eral men were bare-chested af­ter us­ing their shirts to plug wounds and tie tourni­quets.

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.

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.

Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment photo via AP

Sher­iff’s Sgt. Ron Helus ar­rived at the coun­try mu­sic bar in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., around 11:20 p.m. Wed­nes­day in re­sponse to 911 calls, heard gun­fire and ran in­side, ac­cord­ing to the Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment.

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