Gunman opens fire in bar, killing at least 12 people
A former U.S. Marine machine gunner who may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder burst into a Thousand Oaks bar packed with college students late Wednesday night, tossed a smoke bomb into the crowd and opened fire, authorities said.
Eleven people were killed, in addition to a sheriff’s sergeant responding to the scene who was gunned down by the assailant minutes later.
The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students as young as 18 on Wednesday night. Crowds of young people, including parties for two women celebrating their 21st birthdays, were drinking and dancing when the crack of gunfire echoed through the cavernous room about 11:20 p.m.
Terrified patrons scrambled for cover as bullets flew. Some crouched behind pool tables and in bathroom stalls, fumbling with phones as they tried to call and text their loved ones. Others used barstools to break second-story windows in an attempt to jump to safety.
Nellie Wong’s friends at California State University, Channel Islands in Camarillo had surprised her Wednesday night and taken her out to celebrate her 21st birthday. As the shooting started, she dived to the floor and hid behind a group of tables and barstools, squeezing her nose closed with her hand to avoid choking on the smoke.
“I immediately stopped moving, stopped breathing,” said Wong, who still wore a bright pink cowboy hat and a “Happy Birthday” sash. “Thank goodness, he didn’t see me at all.”
The shooting left 12 people dead and 18 others injured, some who were hurt trying to escape. The severity of their injuries was not immediately known, fire officials said.
The suspected gunman, Ian David Long, was found dead of a gunshot wound in a back room at the bar. The amount of blood inside the bar made it difficult to tell whether he shot himself or was killed by law enforce-
THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN THOUSAND OAKS. THOUSAND OAKS IS ONE OF THE SAFEST COMMUNITIES IN THE UNITED STATES.
Capt. Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
ment, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Long, 28, lived in Newbury Park, five miles from the dance hall. He drove his mother’s red Toyota pickup to the Borderline and did not say anything before opening fire, a law enforcement official said.
Long was a machine gunner in the U.S. Marine Corps, reaching the rank of corporal. He served a seven-month tour in Afghanistan during his nearly five years in the service, according to the Department of Defense.
Neighbors on his manicured, leafy street said they suspected he had emotional issues. Deputies who were called to Long’s home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace said he was irate and was acting irrationally, Dean said. Mental health workers decided he did not meet the standard for an emergency psychiatric hold.
Thousand Oaks residents said the attack had shattered their view of the suburban area as safe. Several teenagers said their parents were comfortable sending them to Borderline, next to a golf course and the 101 Freeway, because it was familiar and safe.
“This is not something that happens in Thousand Oaks,” said Capt. Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. “Thousand Oaks is one of the safest communities in the United States. For something like that to hit us on our doorstep is devastating.”
The Borderline, a barnlike bar with live music and dancing, is popular with college students and country music fans in Ventura County.
Ventura Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus had been talking to his wife on the phone, as he often did during a shift, when he received a radio call about the shooting, Dean said. Before he rushed to the scene, he told her: “Hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call.”
Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were the first people to run into the bar, about four minutes after the first 911 call, Dean said. Helus was shot multiple times, almost immediately, and the CHP officer dragged him out of the building.
Helus died early Thursday morning at a hospital, leaving behind his wife and a son. He was a 29year veteran of the department who planned to retire in a year or two, Dean said.
The shooter was armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun, Dean said. A source who was not authorized to speak publicly said Long legally purchased the weapon in Simi Valley.
The shooter’s weapon had an extended magazine, Dean said; he added he did not know how many bullets were in the weapon.
In this image taken from video, a victim is treated near the scene of the shooting Wednesday evening in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
LA County Deputy Sheriff Armando Viera, center, consoles a woman after a motorcade with the body of Sgt. Ron Helus passed Thursday.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean speaks to reporters near the scene in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Thursday.