Gun­man kills 12 at Calif. venue

The News & Observer - - Front Page - BY JOSE A. DEL REAL, JEN­NIFER ME­D­INA AND MATTHEW HAAG

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.

KENT NISHIMURA TNS

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.

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