⏩ Marine com­bat vet­eran kills 12 peo­ple at a Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., bar.

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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 22year-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 high-rise 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.

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 from Los An­ge­les, just across the county line.

It was the na­tion’s dead­li­est such at­tack since 17 stu­dents and teach­ers were killed at a Park­land, Fla., 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.

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.

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.

Mark J. Ter­rill / As­so­ci­ated Press

Peo­ple cry as a law en­force­ment mo­tor­cade es­corts the body of Ven­tura County Sher­iff's Depart­ment Sgt. Ron Helus from the Los Robles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Thurs­day in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., af­ter a gun­man opened fire Wed­nes­day evening in­side a coun­try mu­sic bar, killing mul­ti­ple peo­ple, in­clud­ing Helus.

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