‘Everybody down’ as gunfire begins
No shortage of case studies in workshop on active assailants Marine veteran kills 12, himself at bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
For the several dozen first responders attending an active-assailant workshop in Annapolis on Thursday, there was no shortage of real-life case studies from which to learn, both at home and across the country.
And in fact, the daylong seminars on how to manage a mass shooting began with attendees watching a video clip of the Ventura County, Calif., sheriff choking back sobs as he announced one of his deputies was among the 12 killed Wednesday night when he responded to the Borderline Bar shooting in Thousand Oaks.
“It used to be every couple of months, and then it was every month,” said Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Simmons of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, one of the agencies that sponsored the work- Deputy Sheriff Armando Viera consoles an unidentified woman as a motorcade with the body of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus passes by.
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. — Using a smoke bomb and a handgun, a hooded Marine combat veteran dressed 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 Thursday.
Authorities said the motive for the attack Wednesday night was under investigation.
The killer was identified as Ian David Long, 28, 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 behavior that they were told might be posttraumatic 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 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,” Dean said in the parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”
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. 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. 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,” Coffman sobbed.
“Sister Sister” actress Tamera MowryHousley 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 23-year-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 Gov.-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 normalization, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s become normalized.”
President Donald Trump praised police for their “great bravery” in the attack and ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.
Long was armed with a Glock 21, a Mourners embrace Thursday at a teen center, where loved ones gathered after a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. .45-caliber pistol designed to hold10 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, Dean said. The killer also deployed a smoke device, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.
Authorities converged on Long’s home in Newbury Park, about 5 miles 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.
Long was in the Marines from 2008 to 2013, rose to the rank of corporal and served in Afghanistan in 2010-2011 before he was honorably 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 hospitalized.
The gunman first shot a security guard standing outside, then went in and opened fire on staff members and patrons, the sheriff said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived around 11:20 p.m. in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire and went inside, the sheriff said. Helus was immediately shot, Dean said. The highway patrolman pulled Helus out, then waited as a SWAT team and scores more officers arrived. Helus died at a hospital.
By the time officers entered the bar again, the gunfire had stopped, according to the sheriff. They found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman, who was discovered in an office and had apparently shot himself, the sheriff said.
“There’s no doubt that they saved lives by going in there and engaging with the suspect,” said Dean, who was set to retire on Friday. He praised the slain officer — a close friend — as a hero: “He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price.”
People cry as a law enforcement motorcade escorts the body of Ventura County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Ron Helus from the Los Robles Regional Medical Center after a gunman opened fire Wednesday evening inside a country music bar.
Sgt. Ron Helus died after responding to the shooting.