Gun­man in bar killing rampage ex­hib­ited clear warn­ing signs

Men­tal health a con­cern

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG AND GABRIELLA MUÑOZ

The spe­cific mo­tive be­hind Wed­nes­day night’s mas­sacre at a packed South­ern Cal­i­for­nia bar, the lat­est mass shoot­ing to rock the na­tion, re­mains a mys­tery.

What’s clear, how­ever, is that the shooter — 28-year-old Ian David Long, a Ma­rine vet­eran who served in Afghanistan — was on au­thor­i­ties’ radar and ex­hib­ited clear warn­ing signs point­ing to pos­si­ble post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der just months be­fore he em­barked on a deadly rampage that claimed a dozen lives, in­clud­ing that of a sher­iff’s sergeant.

Long, who po­lice say en­tered the Border­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks late Wed­nes­day clad in all black and armed with a .45-cal­iber Glock 21 hand­gun equipped with an il­le­gal ex­tended mag­a­zine and a

“smoke de­vice,” was found dead at the scene, prob­a­bly at his own hand. The bar, a pop­u­lar dance venue, was packed with hun­dreds of peo­ple dur­ing its reg­u­lar “col­lege coun­try night.”

Of­fi­cials at Pep­per­dine Univer­sity and Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Col­lege said some of the vic­tims were stu­dents or re­cent grad­u­ates of their schools.

Paul Dela­court, as­sis­tant direc­tor of the FBI’s Los An­ge­les field of­fice, said the crime scene and the gun­man’s home and car were be­ing searched for ev­i­dence and that in­ter­views were be­ing con­ducted, but he told re­porters it was pre­ma­ture to spec­u­late on a mo­tive.

Although he had no crim­i­nal record, Long was in­ter­viewed by po­lice and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als in April af­ter vi­o­lent out­bursts. Those who knew the trou­bled vet­eran said they feared he might be prone to vi­o­lence — and knew that he was pro­fi­cient with firearms.

“I was con­cerned be­cause I knew he had been in the mil­i­tary,” neigh­bor Tom Han­son, 70, told The As­so­ci­ated Press of the April in­ci­dent, which he de­scribed as “heavy-duty bang­ing” com­ing from the Long house in New­bury Park, where the Ma­rine vet­eran lived with his mother.

An­other neigh­bor, who spoke anony­mously to lo­cal TV sta­tion KABC, said Long’s in­sta­bil­ity should have re­sulted in the con­fis­ca­tion of his weapons. Cal­i­for­nia law al­lows for au­thor­i­ties to tem­po­rar­ily restrict firearm pos­ses­sion if a men­tal health pro­fes­sional deems it nec­es­sary.

“I don’t know what he was do­ing with a gun,” the neigh­bor said.

Pres­i­dent Trump or­dered the White House flag low­ered to half-staff and ap­plauded the re­sponse of lo­cal po­lice, in­clud­ing Sgt. Ron Helus, who was the first to en­ter the bar and later died from gun­shot wounds.

“Great brav­ery shown by po­lice. Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol was on scene within 3 min­utes, with first of­fi­cer to en­ter shot nu­mer­ous times. That Sher­iff’s Sergeant died in the hos­pi­tal. God bless all of the vic­tims and fam­i­lies of the vic­tims. Thank you to Law En­force­ment,” the pres­i­dent said on Twit­ter.

The deadly as­sault is the lat­est in a string of mass shoot­ings that have shaken the coun­try this year. It is the dead­li­est sin­gle at­tack since Fe­bru­ary’s shoot­ing at Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Flor­ida, and comes just 11 days af­ter a mass shoot­ing at a Pitts­burgh sy­n­a­gogue that claimed 11 lives.

Niko­las Cruz, who is ac­cused in the Flor­ida at­tack, also was known to au­thor­i­ties for months lead­ing up to the day 17 peo­ple in­side the school were killed. He also had given clear in­di­ca­tions that he may be prone to vi­o­lence.

‘Act­ing ir­ra­tionally’

In the Cal­i­for­nia case, po­lice of­fi­cials said they had wit­nessed Long “act­ing ir­ra­tionally” when they vis­ited his home in April and spec­u­lated that he may have been deal­ing with PTSD, though there is no ev­i­dence that Long had made any vi­o­lent threats.

“PTSD might be a part of the con­ver­sa­tion,” Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said Wed­nes­day.

Long served in the Ma­rine Corps from Au­gust 2008 un­til March 2013 and earned the rank of cor­po­ral in 2011, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said. Dur­ing his time in the armed forces, he spent about six months in Afghanistan. Court records show he mar­ried in 2009 and was di­vorced in 2013.

Some spe­cial­ists cau­tion against im­me­di­ately jump­ing to the con­clu­sion that Long’s his­tory in the mil­i­tary, or the trauma he may have suf­fered while serv­ing, played a role in push­ing him to vi­o­lence.

“When you see some­thing like this hap­pen and find out it’s some­one with a mil­i­tary his­tory, all of a sud­den that be­comes the cen­ter of at­ten­tion,” said Chris Marvin, a mem­ber of the Every­town for Gun Safety Vet­er­ans Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil and a re­tired com­bat-wounded Army of­fi­cer.

“When we hear Ma­rine Corps, peo­ple jump to PTSD, and they do it be­cause they want to scape­goat — here’s some­thing to blame,” he said.

While Mr. Marvin and other spe­cial­ists point out that the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of those suf­fer­ing from PTSD do not com­mit vi­o­lence, those close to Long seemed deeply con­cerned that he was on the verge of lash­ing out.

Neigh­bor Richard Berge told USA To­day that the walls in­side the Long home were “full of holes,” pre­sum­ably from be­ing punched or kicked. He said Long’s mother tried to per­suade her son to seek coun­sel­ing but that the son re­fused.

“She was wor­ried be­cause he wouldn’t get help,” Mr. Berge said. “I asked her, ‘Can’t he just get help?’ She said, ‘He can’t get help.’”

Long was the sub­ject of a men­tal health re­view af­ter the April en­counter with po­lice. Un­der Cal­i­for­nia’s “red flag” law, au­thor­i­ties could have tem­po­rar­ily con­fis­cated Long’s guns un­til he had un­der­gone a more thor­ough eval­u­a­tion.

But men­tal health spe­cial­ists cleared Long, shin­ing a spot­light on how even the most well-in­ten­tioned laws of­ten rely on the judg­ment of one or two peo­ple to pre­vent a tragedy.

The red flag law “re­lies on lo­cal law en­force­ment, it re­lies on fam­ily mem­bers to make some as­sess­ments and then it goes through the proper process to get firearms tem­po­rar­ily re­stricted,” Mr. Marvin said.

“We’re still learn­ing,” he said. “It seems the men­tal health pro­fes­sional in this case didn’t deem that to be nec­es­sary.”

In Cal­i­for­nia and in Wash­ing­ton, Democrats re­newed their calls for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shoot­ing.

“Last night’s hor­rific shoot­ing in Thou­sand Oaks is noth­ing short of a tragedy. Our hearts are with all those whose loved ones were stolen from them too soon, by yet an­other sense­less act of gun vi­o­lence,” Cal­i­for­nia Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom posted on Twit­ter. “The gun vi­o­lence that con­tin­ues to plague our na­tion is be­yond heart­break­ing — it’s a so­ci­etal fail­ure. Sim­ply say­ing, ‘enough is enough,’ is NOT enough.”

This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

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