Heroes, tears of killer’s
Pictures: AP, Facebook Terrified patrons hurled bar stools through windows to escape or threw their bodies protectively on top of friends as a US Marines combat veteran killed 12 people at a countrymusic bar in an attack that added Thousand Oaks to the tragic roster of American cities traumatised by mass shootings.
Dressed in black with his hood pulled up, the gunman apparently took his own life as police massed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in southern California.
The killer, Ian David Long was a former machine-gunner and Afghanistan war veteran who was interviewed by police at his home last spring after an episode of agitated behaviour that authorities were told might be post-traumatic stress disorder.
Opening fire with a handgun with an illegal, extra-large magazine, the 28 year old shot a security guard outside, then went in and took aim at employees and patrons. He also used a smoke bomb.
Survivors — mostly young people who had gone out for college night at the Borderline, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University — seemed to know what to do, having come of age in an era of active-shooter drills and deadly rampages.
Several of the survivors said they were also at the outdoor country-music festival in Las Vegas last year when a gunman in a high-rise hotel killed 58 people.
Many of the hundreds of patrons dived under tables, ran for the exits, broke through windows or hid in the attic and bathrooms.
“Unfortunately, our young people, people at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen and they think about that,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
“Fortunately, it helped save a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly.”
Matt Wennerstrom said he pulled people behind a pool table and he and friends shielded women with their bodies after hearing the shots.
He said that when the gunman paused to reload, he used a bar stool to shatter a window and help about 30 people escape.
He heard another volley of shots after they got out.
“All I wanted to do was get as many people out of there as possible,” Mr Wennerstrom told KABC-TV.
“I know where I’m going if I die, so I was not worried.”
The dead included a veteran sheriff’s deputy who rushed in to confront the gunman, as well
as 22-year-old man who planned to join the army, a freshman at nearby Pepperdine University and a recent Cal Lutheran graduate.
The tragedy left a community that is annually listed as one of the safest cities in America reeling. Scores of people showed up to donate blood for the wounded.
All morning, people looking for missing friends and relatives arrived at a community centre
People gather at the vigil.
Ian David Long last year.
Sgt Ron Helus