Heroism, resolve amid US shooting
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.
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 and 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.
The authorities haven’t released information on the victims, but televised reports have shown several victims in their teens and early 20s.
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 on 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 machinegunner and earning the rank of corporal in August 2011.
He also won several awards, including a Combat Action Ribbon and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
Mourners cry and comfort each other during a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Wednesday in California.