‘Stand up for our chil­dren and ban guns’

■ For­mer ma­rine with sus­pected men­tal health is­sues shot 12 peo­ple dead at coun­try mu­sic bar near LA

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Keiran South­ern

A wit­ness has called for gun con­trol af­ter de­scrib­ing the af­ter­math of a shoot­ing at a bar in Cal­i­for­nia as “like a bat­tle­field”.

Po­lice in Thou­sand Oaks said 12 peo­ple were shot dead when Ian David Long, a 28-year-old for­mer US ma­rine, opened fire in­side Border­line Bar and Grill on Wed­nes­day night.

Ter­ri­fied drinkers used bar stools to smash win­dows as they des­per­ately tried to es­cape the gun­fire at the venue pop­u­lar with stu­dents from nearby Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity.

A sher­iff’s sergeant is among the dead and Long is be­lieved to have killed him­self.

Sarah Si­likula lives min­utes away from the bar and first re­alised some­thing was wrong when she heard scream­ing.

She said: “A few min­utes ear­lier I no­ticed the mu­sic had stopped but re­ally didn’t process that it was a big deal un­til I heard slight scream­ing. It’s very un­usual to hear any­thing in this neigh­bour­hood af­ter sun­set, it’s a quiet place.

“So I was about to walk out­side when my daugh­ter called and said: ‘Don’t go out­side, lock your house up, there’s an ac­tive shooter at Border­line. They don’t know where he is’.”

“I said: ‘How do you know where this is at, there’s noth­ing on the news?’ She said: ‘I was sup­posed to go to Border­line tonight but I didn’t go, I stayed home. My friends are there, and I just talked to one of them she’s hid­ing in the bath­room.’ ”

Mrs Si­likula, a mother of eight, left her house and saw dozens of po­lice cars de­scend­ing on the bar. She said of­fi­cers “did not hes­i­tate” be­fore rush­ing in­side.

Mrs Si­likula spoke to one vic­tim who told her they had been hid­ing in the bath­room as the sound of gun­shots got closer.

The door opened as they were cow­er­ing in a stall and the bar­rel of a gun poked through be­fore the po­lice of­fi­cer hold­ing the weapon en­tered and guided the young girl to safety.

Sher­iff’s Sergeant Ron Helus ar­rived at Borde­line around 11.20pm lo­cal time and en­tered the build­ing af­ter hear­ing gun­shots, US po­lice said.

He was im­me­di­ately hit with bul­lets and later died. Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said: “He went in there to save peo­ple and paid the ul­ti­mate price.””

Au­thor­i­ties say it is the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in the US since 17 teach­ers and stu­dents were gunned down at a Park­land, Flor­ida, high school nine months ago.

It comes less than two weeks af­ter a gun­man killed 11 peo­ple at a sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

Mrs Si­likula begged US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to tighten US gun laws.

She said: “A week ago, I would say it’s your busi­ness. Ev­ery­one has a right to get a gun. But not any­more. Now I beg our pres­i­dent to stand up for our chil­dren, I chal­lenge him to do it.

Us­ing a smoke bomb and a hand­gun, a hooded Ma­rine com­bat vet­eran dressed all in black opened fire dur­ing col­lege night at a coun­try mu­sic bar in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, killing 12 peo­ple and send­ing hun­dreds flee­ing in ter­ror be­fore ap­par­ently tak­ing his own life, au­thor­i­ties said yes­ter­day.

Au­thor­i­ties said the mo­tive for the at­tack on Wed­nes­day night was still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The killer was iden­ti­fied as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a for­mer ma­chine gun­ner and vet­eran of the war in Afghanistan, who was in­ter­viewed by po­lice at his home last spring af­ter an episode of ag­i­tated be­hav­iour that they were told might be post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Scream­ing in fear, pa­trons rushed for the ex­its, dived un­der ta­bles and used barstools to smash sec­ond-floor win­dows and jump to safety as gun­fire re­ver­ber­ated through the Border­line Bar & Grill, a hang­out pop­u­lar with stu­dents from nearby Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity.

“I dropped to the floor,” Sarah Rose DeSon told ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica. “A friend yelled, ‘Ev­ery­body down!’ We were hid­ing be­hind ta­bles try­ing to keep our­selves cov­ered.”

The dead in­cluded 11 peo­ple in­side the bar, a door­man, and a vet­eran sher­iff’s sergeant who was the first of­fi­cer in­side the door, Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean said.

“It’s a hor­rific scene in there,” Mr Dean said. “There’s blood ev­ery­where.”

The blood­shed was the lat­est in what seems to be a never-end­ing string of mass shoot­ings that are hap­pen­ing with ter­ri­fy­ing fre­quency across the United States.

All morn­ing, peo­ple look­ing for miss­ing friends and rel­a­tives ar­rived at a com­mu­nity cen­ter where au­thor­i­ties and coun­selors were in­form­ing the next-of-kin of those who died.

Many walked past TV cam­eras with blank stares or tears in their eyes. In the park­ing lot, peo­ple com­forted each other with hugs or a pat on the back.

Ja­son Coff­man re­ceived the news that his son Cody, 22, who was about to join the army, was dead. Mr Coff­man broke down as he told re­porters how his last words to his son as he went out that night were not to drink and drive and that he loved him.

“Oh, Cody, I love you, son,” Mr Coff­man sobbed.

Sis­ter Sis­ter ac­tress Tam­era Mowry-Hous­ley and her hus­band said their 18-yearold niece Alaina Housely, a stu­dent at nearby Pep­per­dine Univer­sity, was also among those killed.

So was Justin Meek, a 23year-old re­cent grad­u­ate of Cal Lutheran, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity.

It was the na­tion’s dead­li­est such at­tack since 17 stu­dents and teach­ers were killed at a Park­land, Flor­ida, high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks af­ter a gun­man mas­sa­cred 11 peo­ple at a sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

Demo­cratic gov­er­nor-elect Gavin Newsom, in his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since win­ning of­fice on Tues­day, lamented the vi­o­lence that has come again to Cal­i­for­nia.

“It’s a gun cul­ture,” he said. “You can’t go to a bar or night­club? You can’t go to church or sy­n­a­gogue? It’s in­sane is the only way to de­scribe it. The nor­mal­i­sa­tion, that’s the only way I can de­scribe it. It’s be­come nor­malised.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised po­lice for their “great brav­ery” in the at­tack and or­dered flags flown at half-staff in hon­our of the vic­tims.

Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-cal­iber pis­tol de­signed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the cham­ber, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff. But it had an ex­tended mag­a­zine — one ca­pa­ble of hold­ing more am­mu­ni­tion — that is il­le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia, Mr Dean said.

The killer also de­ployed a smoke de­vice, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Sher­iff’s Sergeant Ron Helus and a pass­ing high­way pa­trol­man ar­rived at the Border­line around 11.20pm in re­sponse to sev­eral 911 calls, heard gun­fire and went in­side, the sher­iff said.

Sgt Helus was im­me­di­ately hit with mul­ti­ple gun­shots, Mr Dean said.

The high­way pa­trol­man pulled Sgt Helus out, then waited as a Swat team and scores more of­fi­cers ar­rived.

Sgt Helus died early on Thurs­day at a hos­pi­tal.

Au­thor­i­ties yes­ter­day con­verged on Long’s home in New­bury Park, about 8km from the Border­line bar, in a search for clues to what set him off. “There’s no in­di­ca­tion that he tar­geted the em­ploy­ees. We haven’t found any cor­re­la­tion,” the sher­iff said. “Maybe there was a mo­tive for this par­tic­u­lar night, but we have no in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to that at all.”

Long was in the Marines from 2008 to 2013, rose to the rank of cor­po­ral and served in Afghanistan in 2010-11 be­fore he was hon­ourably dis­charged, the mil­i­tary said. Court records show he mar­ried in 2009 and was di­vorced in 2013.

Au­thor­i­ties said he had no crim­i­nal record, but in April of­fi­cers were called to his home, where deputies found him an­gry and act­ing ir­ra­tionally.

The sher­iff said of­fi­cers were told he might have PTSD be­cause of his mil­i­tary ser­vice. A men­tal health spe­cial­ist met with him and didn’t feel he needed to be hos­pi­talised.

Tom Han­son, 70, who lives next door to Long and his mother, said yes­ter­day that he called the po­lice about six months ago when he heard “heavy-duty bang­ing” and shout­ing com­ing from the Longs’ home.

“I was con­cerned be­cause I knew he had been in the mil­i­tary,” he said.

Mr Han­son said the sher­iff’s deputy who ar­rived took his in­for­ma­tion, but he never learned more about what hap­pened and hadn’t spo­ken to Long since then. He said he was “dumb­founded” by the blood­shed. Be­gin?

Pic­ture: Al Seib/Los An­ge­les Times/Getty

Chyann Wor­rell, left, holds Nel­lie Wong as she cries and Erika Sig­man looks on. All three women were in the Border­line Bar and Grill, Cal­i­for­nia, when Ian David Long, in­set, killed 12 peo­ple in a shoot­ing rampage on Wed­nes­day night.

Pic­ture: Mark J Ter­rill/AP

Peo­ple com­fort each other near a coun­try dance bar in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia, near Los An­ge­les, where gun­man Ian Long killed 12 peo­ple be­fore later turn­ing the gun on him­self.

The gun­man has been iden­ti­fied as Ian Long, 28, a highly dec­o­rated ex-Ma­rine whose neigh­bours say was plagued with PTSD.

Pic­ture: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Im­ages

The home of Ian Long is searched yes­ter­day by of­fi­cers in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia.

Pic­ture: Mark J Ter­rill

Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean speaks to re­porters near the scene in Thou­sand Oaks.

Fran­cis Lai: Death an­nounced by France’s Cul­ture Min­istry.

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