Gunman storms California nightclub, killing at least 12
A former U.S. Marine machine gunner who may have suffered from posttraumatic 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 linedancing 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 moving, 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.
LA County Deputy Sheriff Armando Viera, center, consoles an unidentified woman after amotorcade with the body of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus on Thursday.