12 killed in bar ram­page

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

THOU­SAND OAKS, CALIF. >> Ter­ri­fied pa­trons hurled barstools through win­dows to es­cape or threw their bod­ies pro­tec­tively on top of friends as a Marine com­bat vet­eran killed 12 peo­ple at a coun­try mu­sic bar in an at­tack that added Thou­sand Oaks to the tragic ros­ter of Amer­i­can ci­ties trau­ma­tized by mass shoot­ings.

Dressed all 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 South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The mo­tive for the ram­page late Wed­nes­day night was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The killer , Ian David Long, 28, was a for­mer ma­chine gun­ner and Afghanistan war vet­eran who was in­ter­viewed by po­lice at his home last spring af­ter an episode of ag­i­tated be­hav­ior that au­thor­i­ties were told might be post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Open­ing fire with a hand­gun

with an il­le­gal, ex­tra-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zine, Long shot a se­cu­rity 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 Cal Lutheran grad­u­ate.

“It’s a hor­rific scene in there,” Ven­tura County 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 Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity — 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 high­rise 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.”

Matt Wen­ner­strom said he pulled peo­ple be­hind a pool ta­ble, and he and friends shielded women with their bod­ies af­ter hear­ing the shots. When the gun­man paused to reload, Wen­ner­strom said, he used a barstool to shat­ter a win­dow and then helped about 30 peo­ple es­cape. He heard an­other vol­ley of shots af­ter they got out.

“All I wanted to do was get as many peo­ple out of there as pos­si­ble,” he told KABC-TV. “I know where I’m go­ing if I die, so I was not wor­ried.”

The tragedy left a com­mu­nity that is an­nu­ally listed as one of the safest ci­ties in Amer­ica reel­ing. Shoot­ings of any kind are ex­tremely rare in Thou­sand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 peo­ple about 40 miles (64 kilo­me­ters) from Los An­ge­les, just across the county line.

Scores of peo­ple showed up to do­nate blood for the wounded, and 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. 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.

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.

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.

Au­thor­i­ties searched Long’s home in New­bury Park, about 5 miles from the Border­line 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 in 2010-11 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.

Tom Han­son, 70, who lives next door to Long and his mother, said Thurs­day that he called the po­lice about six months ago when he heard “heavy-duty bang­ing” and shout­ing com­ing from the Longs’ home.

“I was con­cerned be­cause I knew he had been in the mil­i­tary,” he said.

Han­son said the sher­iff’s deputy who ar­rived took his in­for­ma­tion, but he never learned more about what hap­pened and hadn’t spo­ken to Long since then.

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.

The Border­line, which has a large dance hall along with sev­eral smaller areas for eat­ing and drink­ing, was hold­ing one of its reg­u­lar “Col­lege Coun­try Nights.”

Nick Stein­wen­der, Cal Lutheran stu­dent body pres­i­dent, told KTLA-TV he im­me­di­ately started re­ceiv­ing mes­sages about the shoot­ing, and he and his room­mate went to the scene to of­fer rides back to cam­pus or mo­ral sup­port.

“It’s go­ing to be a very somber day,” Stein­wen­der said. “I know we don’t have all the de­tails in yet, but you know, it just feels like it’s an at­tack on our com­mu­nity. You know, I think it’s go­ing to be some­thing that we’re go­ing to have to come to­gether and move past.”

The bar is also close to sev­eral other uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity Chan­nel Is­lands in Ca­mar­illo, Pep­per­dine in Mal­ibu and Moor­park Col­lege in Moor­park.

Around mid­day, the body of the slain sher­iff’s of­fi­cer was taken by mo­tor­cade from the hos­pi­tal to the coro­ner’s of­fice. Thou­sands of peo­ple stood along the route or pulled over in their ve­hi­cles to watch the hearse pass. Fire­fight­ers use two lad­der trucks to raise a gi­ant Amer­i­can flag over the route.

Helus was a 29-year vet­eran of the force with a wife and son and planned to re­tire in the com­ing year, said the sher­iff, chok­ing back tears.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mourn­ers em­brace out­side the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, where rel­a­tives and friends gath­ered in the af­ter­math of a mass shoot­ing, Thurs­day.

Ian David Long

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mourn­ers em­brace out­side of the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, where rel­a­tives and friends gath­ered in the af­ter­math of a mass shoot­ing, Thurs­day in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif. Mul­ti­ple peo­ple were shot and killed late Wed­nes­day by a gun­man who opened fire at the Border­line Bar & Grill, which was hold­ing a weekly coun­try mu­sic dance night for col­lege stu­dents.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple place flow­ers near the scene of a mass shoot­ing Thurs­day in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., af­ter a gun­man opened fire Wed­nes­day evening in­side a coun­try mu­sic bar, killing mul­ti­ple peo­ple in­clud­ing a re­spond­ing sher­iff’s sergeant.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sgt. Ron Helus was killed in a deadly shoot­ing at a coun­try mu­sic bar in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

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