12 killed in shooting
Officials investigate why a Marine veteran of the Afghan War opened fire at a country music bar
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Terrified patrons hurled barstools through windows to escape or shielded friends as a gunman killed 12 people at a country music bar in an attack that added Thousand Oaks to the tragic roster of cities traumatized by mass shootings. Dressed in black with his hood pulled up, the gunman apparently took his own life as scores of police converged on the Borderline Bar & Grill in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles.
The motive for the rampage late Wednesday night was under investigation.
The killer, Ian David Long, 28, was a former machine gunner and Afghan War veteran who was questioned by police at his home in the spring after an episode of agitated behavior that authorities were told might be related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Opening fire with a handgun with an illegal, large-capacity magazine, Long shot a guard outside the bar and then went in and took aim at employees and patrons, authorities said. He also used a smoke bomb, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The dead included a veteran sheriff’s deputy who rushed in to confront the gunman, as well as a 22-year-old man who planned to join the Army, a freshman at nearby Pepperdine University and a recent California Lutheran University graduate.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Ventura Sheriff Geoff Dean said in the parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”
Survivors of the rampage — mostly young people who had gone out for college night at the Borderline, a hangout popular with students from nearby Cal Lutheran — seemed to know what to do, having come of age in an era of active-shooter
drills and deadly rampages happening with terrifying frequency.
Several of the survivors said they were also at the outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas last year when a gunman in a high-rise hotel killed 58 people.
Many of the estimated 150 patrons at the Borderline dived under tables, ran for the exits, broke through windows, or hid in the attic and bathrooms, authorities and witnesses said.
“Unfortunately, our young people, people at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen, and they think about that,” the sheriff said. “Fortunately, it helped save a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly.”
The tragedy shocked a community that is annually listed as one of the safest cities in America. Shootings of any kind are extremely rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of 130,000 about 40 miles from Los Angeles, just across the county line.
Scores of people showed up to donate blood for the wounded, and all morning Thursday, 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 people walked past TV cameras with blank stares or tears in their eyes. In the parking lot, some comforted each other with hugs or a pat on the back.
It was the nation’s deadliest such attack since 17 students and teachers were killed at a Parkland, Fla., high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. This year alone, there have been four incidents in which at least 10 people died.
In his first public appearance since winning office on Tuesday, Gov.elect Gavin Newsom 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.
Authorities searched Long’s home in Newbury Park, about five miles from the bar, 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 from 2010 to 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.
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, Dean said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived at the club 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 other officers arrived. Helus died at a hospital.
By the time officers entered the bar again — about 15 to 20 minutes later, according to the sheriff’s office — the gunfire had stopped, the sheriff said. They found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman, who was discovered in an office, 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.”
One other person was wounded by gunfire, and as many as 15 others suffered minor injuries from jumping out windows or diving under tables, authorities said.
A victim was treated near the scene of Wednesday’s shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., near Los Angeles. Opening fire with a handgun using an illegal magazine, the gunman shot a guard outside the bar and then went in and took aim at employees and patrons, authorities said. He was identified as Ian David Long, a former machine gunner and Afghan War veteran.
An FBI agent talked to a potential witness as they stood early Thursday near the scene of the shooting. Several of the survivors said they were also at the outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas last year when a gunman in a high-rise hotel killed 58 people.
A law enforcement motorcade provided an escort for a hearse carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus on Thursday in Newbury Park, Calif.