Heroism, resolve amid gunfire
Stories unfold of bravery at bar where gunman killed 12 people enjoying music
Sarah Silikula, a mother of eight in Southern California, never believed that gun violence would be a concern in her life until Wednesday night, when her teenage daughter received a phone call from a friend.
The daughter’s friend was hiding in the bathroom of a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks, California, where a gunman had stormed in and opened fire on innocent people enjoying a weekly “College Country Night”.
Silikula said she doesn’t know if the 19-year-old woman was injured, but the violent incident has changed her opinion on guns.
“A week ago, I would have told you I wouldn’t care about everybody’s personal business. But now I say take them all. … (If ) nobody has guns, they can’t do mass shootings,” she said.
A candlelight vigil for the victims was planned for Thursday night in Thousand Oaks Plaza.
Walked into gunfire
The gunman, identified as US Marine Corps veteran Ian David Long, fatally shot 12 people, including a sheriff’s sergeant, and then killed himself at about 11:20 pm at the Borderline Bar & Grill, where the crime unfolded, according to the authorities.
Sergeant Ron Helus and two California Highway Patrol officers arrived at the scene first after 911 emergency calls.
“They opened the door and went inside, Helus in the front, and immediately engaged in the gunfire,” Sergeant Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff ’s Office told China Daily on Thursday.
Helus was shot several times, and the two CHP officers pulled him outside and managed to send him to the emergency room, but he later died, Buschow said.
“There were 21 people who left the scene, either drove themselves or were driven by friends to local emergency rooms,” Buschow said. “They were all treated for a variety of minor injuries. Many of those were as a result of the chaos after the shooting but not necessarily gunshot wounds.”
Helus, 58, had worked at the sheriff’s office for 29 years. He served on a SWAT team and was a member of the narcotics task force for many years.
“(He’s) really a gifted and outstanding investigator,” Buschow said. “It’s such a tragedy on so many levels. It touches a lot of lives and a lot of places. It’s just going to take a long time to heal. Many lives will be changed because of this.”
The authorities haven’t released information on the victims, but televised reports have shown several victims in their teens and early 20s.
“CLU (California Lutheran University) does a caravan on Wednesday nights, because this is one of the only places that I can even think of that allows 18-year-olds in,” she said. “This is where they go if they don’t reach legal drinking age, and they still want to have fun and hang out with their friends in the club.”
California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and Pepperdine University in Malibu have confirmed that a student and a recent graduate were among the victims. California Lutheran canceled classes on Thursday and Friday.
The crime scene and the gunman’s home and car are being processed for evidence, and interviews are being conducted, Paul Delacourt, FBI assistant director of the Los Angeles field office, said at a news conference held Thursday near the crime scene.
The investigators said it was premature to determine the suspect’s motive, but they hope evidence will allow them to paint a picture of his frame of mind.
Long had been deployed to Afghanistan for seven months from November 2010 to June 2011. He was in the Marines from August 2008 until March 2013, serving as a machine gunner and earning the rank of corporal in August 2011.
He also earned several awards, including a Combat Action Ribbon and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
“The investigation is huge,” Sergeant Julie Novak told China Daily following the news conference.
The sheriff’s office has partnered with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the investigation.
“FBI is offering their special equipment that we don’t have. We are also working in partnership with ATF, helping along gun lines and developing nodes and angles,” said Novak. “It’s a very slow, methodical, detailed investigation, and it really requires a lot of people to work on it together.”
They opened the door and went inside, Helus in the front, and immediately engaged in the gunfire.” Sergeant Eric Buschow, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
Madison Fuller of Thousand Oaks, California reacts on Thursday as she watches from an overpass as a procession for the body of Sergeant Ron Helus, who died in a mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar, moves down Ventura Highway 101 in Thousand Oaks.
Witnesses console each other near the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, after a shooter killed 12 people and himself on Wednesday.