Cal­i­for­nia shooter was a Ma­rine vet­eran


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.

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