GUNMAN KILLS 12, SELF AT BAR
Authorities say a Marine Corps veteran shot and killed 12 patrons at a California bar before killing himself.
A Marine Corps veteran who had served in Afghanistan fatally shot at least 12 people Wednesday night when he stormed a crowded country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, authorities said.
The Ventura County sheriff, Geoff Dean, said the gunman, Ian David Long of nearby Newbury Park, California, apparently took his own life after being confronted by officers responding to the Wednesday night attack. One officer, Sgt. Ron Helus, was killed when he entered the building to help. The gunman used a .45-caliber handgun that he purchased legally. It had been outfitted with an extended magazine.
The shooting came just over a year after 58 people were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire from a highrise hotel room. There was an eerie parallel between the two shootings, as some of the same people who emerged from the bar, the Borderline Bar & Grill, described having survived the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.
Deputies had some interaction with Long the last few years, the sheriff said, including a reported disturbance at his home in April that prompted mental health specialists to talk to him. The health specialists, who talked to Long about his military service after suspecting he might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, determined he was not an immediate danger to himself or others and he could not be involuntarily taken to a mental hospital.
Witnesses recalled a chaotic scene at the bar, which was filled with hundreds of people, many of them college students: A gunman opening fire, first at a security guard, as patrons dropped to the dance floor, hid under tables and broke windows to escape.
Many survivors said they were alive because of the actions of complete strangers. Dean said at least six off-duty officers were inside when the gunman opened fire. A parent told Dean “they stood in front of my daughter” and protected her. Witnesses also told local news media about patrons in the back of the bar who broke out a window and helped a number of people escape.
The number of people wounded in the shooting Wednesday was unclear, but the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said about 22 people had been taken to hospitals.
The sheriff, his voice cracking, recalled Helus, the only victim identified so far by law enforcement.
“He died a hero because he went, he went in to save lives, to save other people’s lives,” Dean said.
Country music was playing in the dimly lit bar when people first heard gunshots sometime before midnight. Some said they had initially mistaken the sounds for firecrackers.
Dean said Long first shot a security officer outside the club and then walked inside, turned to the right and shot “other security and employees” before starting to fire on patrons in the main part of the club.
“No idea what the motive was,” the sheriff said. “We don’t believe he was targeting people.”
“I just started hearing these big pops,” said a witness interviewed by a local television station.
Sarah DeSon, 19, a communications student at California State University Channel Islands, said: “I saw sparks going and smoke. There were smoke bombs going off next to me.”
DeSon described a stampede of people fleeing the club.
“I fell on my face,” she said. “I remember looking back at one point to make sure he” – the gunman – “wasn’t behind me.”
Chyann Worrell, a junior at the university, said she was at the bar to celebrate the 21st birthday of her friend Nellie Wong for a night of line-dancing with a live DJ. Shortly after 11 p.m., Worrell said, the gunman, wearing dark clothing and a dark baseball cap, drew his gun. He aimed it at a man near the front of the bar.
Worrell ducked for cover and heard a barrage of bullets. As she ran out of the bar, she said, she saw several bodies sprawled on the floor. Hours later, she had still not heard from two friends who had been with her.
One young woman inside the bar, Teylor Whittler, said the gunman appeared focused and did not appear to be targeting anyone in particular.
“I saw him shoot,” Whittler said, adding that someone had yelled, “Everybody get down.”
Helus entered Borderline with a Highway Patrol officer shortly after the first 911 calls, Dean said. The gunman immediately started shooting at them, striking Helus several times.
When the next group of officers entered the bar, they found Long dead in an office inside the club with an apparent selfinflicted gunshot wound.
Hours after the shooting, local law enforcement officers and FBI agents arrived at the neatly kept suburban home in Newbury Park, west of Thousand Oaks, where Long lived with his mother. The home was cordoned off with red crime scene tape.
The rampage in Thousand Oaks, a city of 129,000, was the deadliest shooting in Southern California since 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino in 2015.
DeSon said she believed she survived because of the quick reaction of a friend, Cody Coffman.
“He was protecting everyone,” she said. “He got up and he just yelled, ‘Everyone, run!’”
At a nearby center where families awaited information, Cody’s father, Jason Coffman, was frantically searching for any word on his 22-yearold son, whose cellphone went unanswered.
When he tracked the cellphone, it pinged from inside the club.
“It’s not moving,” he said. “It’s there.”
Coffman later learned that his son had died.
Jason Coffman reacts to a phone call with other people waiting Thursday for news about loved ones missing after the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif.