From night out to nightmare: Gunman was on police radar
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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A tall, hooded gunman dressed in black and covering his face with a bandanna opened fire late Wednesday during College Night at a crowded country dance bar in Southern California. He killed 12 people, including a sheriff ’s sergeant.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean identified the gunman, who killed himself, as Ian David Long, 28, a Marine veteran from Newbury Park, a town inside the Thousand Oaks city limits.
The violence erupted at the Borderline Bar and Grill, a country western dance bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. Hundreds of people fled in terror, including some who used bar stools to break windows and escape.
“It’s a horrific scene
in there. There’s blood
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” said Dean, who choked up in the bar’s parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”
The sheriff said police had “several contacts” with Long in recent years. He was “angry and acting a little irrationally” when a mental health crisis team was called to his home this year to investigate a disturbance. The team concluded Long did not need to be taken into custody, Dean said.
Long was listed as the victim in a bar skirmish three years ago, Dean said.
At a news conference late Thursday afternoon, Paul Delacourt, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said the crime scene, the gunman’s home and car were being processed for evidence. “We’re hoping to paint a picture of the state of mind of the suspect,” he said.
A Marine corporal, Long served for five years – from 2008 to 2013 – including a seven-month tour in Afghanistan, according to Marine Corps records. Long earned several awards, including a Combat Action Ribbon and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
In the late night shooting, the suspect was armed with a legally purchased Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber.
The sheriff said the gun had an extended magazine that is illegal in California.
After spraying bullets for almost three minutes, the gunman entered an office near the front of the bar, where he was found dead of an apparent selfinflicted gunshot wound.
“It appears he walked up to the scene, shot the security guard who was standing outside, then stepped inside,” Dean said. “It appears that he turned to the right and shot several of the other security guards and employees and began opening fire inside the nightclub.”
Eighteen people made their own way to hospitals, and two were taken by ambulance, according to the Ventura County Sheriff ’s Office.
Sheriff ’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who was shot after he entered the building, died at a hospital early Thursday. Helus and a passing highway patrolman were responding to 911 calls when they arrived at the bar around 11:20 p.m., the sheriff said. They heard gunfire and went inside.
Helus was immediately struck by multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman pulled Helus out and waited as a SWAT team and scores more officers arrived.
The bar, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University, particularly on College Night. It’s close to several other universities, including California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Moorpark College in Moorpark.
The mood on campus is “definitely somber,” said a 22-year-old junior at Pepperdine who identified herself only as Anne. “I think one girl (from Pepperdine) is still missing. We’re praying.”
Jason Coffman received confirmation that his son Cody, 22, who was about to join the Army, was dead. Coffman broke down as he recalled his last words to his son were not to drink and drive and he loved him. “Oh, Cody, I love you, son,” Coffman sobbed.
Thursday, townspeople, including a group of sophomores from La Reina high school, turned out for a procession for the slain officer. Paris Milazzo, 15, cried and hugged her friends as the sheriffs’ vehicles drove past.
“Thousand Oaks is one of the safest cities in the country, and to think it still happens here,” said Michele De Groote, 15, holding back tears. “You don’t think that it’s going to be your city, your home until you wake up that morning and your city is added to that list.”
Wednesday was College Night at the Borderline Bar and Grill when a gunman burst in and fired at patrons.
Terrified patrons fled to safety, some using bar stools to break out windows, when a gunman attacked the Borderline Bar and Grill on Wednesday night. A sheriff ’s sergeant was among those killed.