307 MASS SHOOT­INGS IN 311 DAYS

WILL IT EVER END?

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM SHEA, JES­SICA SCHLADEBECK AND LARRY MCSHANE

12 more in­no­cent Amer­i­cans are tossed onto the grim pile of ca­su­al­ties af­ter a ma­niac opens fire with an il­le­gally mod­i­fied hand­gun in a Cal­i­for­nia bar. That makes ...

The col­lege kids and coun­try mu­sic fans were gid­dily linedanc­ing one minute — and run­ning for their lives through fly­ing bul­lets the next.

An un­hinged ex-Ma­rine, wield­ing a Glock .45 pis­tol mod­i­fied for max­i­mum car­nage, gunned down a hero cop and 11 in­no­cent rev­el­ers in­side a Cal­i­for­nia coun­tryand-West­ern bar be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self, au­thor­i­ties said.

Shooter Ian David Long, swathed in black from head to toe, tossed three smoke bombs in­side be­fore spray­ing the Border­line Bar & Grill with gun­fire. Sur­vivors de­scribed a scene of in­cred­i­ble chaos and courage, with some vic­tims giv­ing their lives to save oth­ers as the crazed Afghanistan war vet­eran blasted away at the crowd in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

“I dropped when I heard the gun­shots,” said a shaken Sarah DeSon, a Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity stu­dent. “I re­mem­ber see­ing the shooter with the gun drawn … at one point I turned around, there was a smoke bomb. Sparks go­ing off and smoke. Some­one had to plan to kill a lot of peo­ple … I’m shocked, it’s ter­ri­ble, but I’m so lucky.”

The pan­icked crowd smashed win­dows to flee, or ducked be­hind the pool ta­ble and bar­room fur­ni­ture for pro­tec­tion. Some hid in bath­room stalls un­til the shoot­ing stopped, and one wit­ness said Long reloaded his weapon at least once dur­ing the shoot­ing spree.

“It’s a hor­rific scene in there,” said Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean. “There is blood ev­ery­where, and the sus­pect is part of that.”

The pop­u­lar nightspot was packed with pa­trons as young as 18 for a spe­cial “Col­lege Coun­try” night pro­mo­tion with line-danc­ing lessons. At least two stu­dents and their friends turned out to cel­e­brate their 21st birth­days at the club, and three of the iden­ti­fied vic­tims were be­tween the ages of 18 and 23.

Sur­vivors, in­clud­ing Tey­lor Whit­tler, said the rat­tling gun­shots were punc­tu­ated by screams as the crowd grasped what was hap­pen­ing.

“Ev­ery­one just yelled, ‘Run, he’s com­ing!’ ” Whit­tler, who was cel­e­brat­ing a friend’s birth­day, re­counted to “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.”

“There were at least 50 peo­ple that all tried get­ting up at once and run­ning out the back door. I ended up get­ting caught in the ground and stum­bled over by mul­ti­ple peo­ple,” she con­tin­ued. “I got hit in the head by a stool that was be­ing picked up to throw through a win­dow, un­til some guy came up be­hind me and grabbed me and said, ‘Get up, we have to go!’ ”

Sev­eral men served as hu­man shields for Whit­tler and her friends, “ready to take a bul­let for ev­ery sin­gle one of us,” she said. In­cred­i­bly, some of the sur­vivors also at­tended the Las Ve­gas con­cert when a lone shooter killed 58 coun­try mu­sic fans last year.

Au­thor­i­ties pro­vided no mo­tive for the lat­est spasm in Amer­ica’s end­less epi­demic of mass shoot­ings, with this one com­ing less than two weeks af­ter the Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue mas­sacre and nine months af­ter 17 stu­dents and teach­ers were killed in Park­land, Fla. The killer used ex­tended mag­a­zines banned in Cal­i­for­nia to squeeze off ex­tra bul­lets, of­fi­cials said.

Long emerged as a clearly dam­aged per­son once out of the ser­vice and back home, likely bat­tling post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der af­ter serv­ing in the Marines from 2008-13. Neigh­bors de­scribed him as a volatile fig­ure who fought tooth and nail with his mother, with at least one spat punc­tu­ated by a gun­shot. When a neigh­bor called the cops in the spring, Long bar­ri­caded him­self in­side the house and po­lice closed their street down.

His time as a Ma­rine in Afghanistan did lit­tle to calm Long, whose life­less body was found in­side an of­fice at the bar.

“When he came back, he was a lot worse,” said neigh­bor Don­ald McCloud, 79. “It got turbo-charged … The du­ra­tion of the ar­gu­ments was a lot longer.”

Long’s first vic­tim was Ven­tura County Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year vet­eran of the depart­ment who re­sponded to the bar along with a mem­ber of the Cal­i­for­nia High­way pa­trol. The slain of­fi­cer — set to re­tire in 2019 af­ter 30 years — was the first one though the front door, and died af­ter a shootout with the sus­pect.

“As I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said, chok­ing back tears. “He went in to save lives, to save other peo­ple.”

Long, be­hind black sun­glasses and wrapped in a black hoodie, then gunned down a bouncer and a sec­ond se­cu­rity guard be­fore march­ing in­side and tak­ing aim at the dance floor and the guests — in­clud­ing stu­dents from three nearby col­leges: Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity, Moor­park Col­lege and Pep­per­dine Univer­sity.

Moor­park fresh­man Cole Knapp said he thought some­one was fool­ing around with fire­crack­ers un­til he spot­ted the black-clad in­vader hold­ing a pis­tol. Af­ter help­ing peo­ple out through a nearby exit, he spot­ted a high­way pa­trol of­fi­cer in the mid­dle of a traf­fic stop.

“I screamed to him, ‘There’s a shooter in there!’ ” he re­counted. “He was kind of in dis­be­lief, then saw that I was se­ri­ous.”

Knapp said a few of the kids who came with him re­mained among those un­ac­counted for when the shoot­ing stopped. As many as 15 peo­ple were in­jured as they scram­bled out win­dows or dove for cover.

Those who didn’t make it out in­cluded Cody Coff­man, 22, killed as he walked to­ward the bar to buy a round of drinks for his friends.

“This is a heart I will never get back,” said his shat­tered fa­ther Ja­son.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were por­ing over the shooter’s car and his home in a hunt for the elu­sive mo­tive be­hind the mass mur­ders, but had yet to find any­thing.

“Maybe there was a mo­tive for this par­tic­u­lar night, but we have no in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to that at all,” said Dean.

Au­thor­i­ties de­clined to say what items were re­cov­ered or whether se­cu­rity video of the car­nage was re­cov­ered. The city of Thou­sand Oaks was re­cently ranked the third-safest city in the United States, ac­cord­ing to data anal­y­sis by the web­site Niche.

Pres­i­dent Trump, who sug­gested armed syn­a­gogue guards af­ter the Pitts­burgh slaugh­ter, fo­cused Thurs­day on the re­sponse by law en­force­ment.

“Great brav­ery shown by po­lice. Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol was on the scene within 3 min­utes, with first of­fi­cer to en­ter shot mul­ti­ple times,” tweeted Trump. “God bless all of the vic­tims and fam­i­lies of the vic­tims. Thank you to law en­force­ment.”

Peo­ple rush shoot­ing vic­tim from Border­line Bar & Grill (in­set, op­po­site page) in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., af­ter ex-Ma­rine gunned down 12 peo­ple be­fore killing him­self Wed­nes­day night. Above, blood­ied vic­tim is treated by res­cuers. Right, fam­ily mem­bers gather nearby. Far r., sur­vivors stand arm-in-arm at scene.

Peo­ple wait in line to give blood for shoot­ing vic­tims Thurs­day.

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