From night out to night­mare: Gun­man was on po­lice radar

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USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin and Joe Cur­ley

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

ev­ery­where.”

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.”

MARVIN O. JIMENEZ/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Wed­nes­day was Col­lege Night at the Border­line Bar and Grill when a gun­man burst in and fired at pa­trons.

MARVIN O. JIMENEZ/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

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.

Ron Helus

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