Gunman kills 12 at Calif. venue
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 Las Vegas shooting.
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.
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.”
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.
She 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.
“I am in the dark right now,” Coffman said. “It’s actually tearing me up.”
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 missing loved ones after the mass shooting. Coffman’s oldest son, Cody Coffman, 22, was killed in the shooting.