Nov 8, 2018 – THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Using a smoke bomb and a handgun, a hooded former Marine dressed all in black opened fire during college night at a country music bar in Southern California, killing 12 people and sending hundreds fleeing in panic before apparently taking his own life, authorities said Thursday.
Authorities said the motive for the attack Wednesday night was under investigation.
The killer was identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a former machine gunner and decorated combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan who authorities said had an episode of erratic behavior last spring that they were told might be post-traumatic stress disorder.
Screaming in fear, patrons rushed for the exits, ducked under tables and hurled barstools to smash second-floor windows and jump to safety as gunfire erupted at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University.
“I dropped to the floor,” Sarah Rose DeSon told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” ”A friend yelled, ‘Everybody down!’ We were hiding behind tables trying to keep ourselves covered.”
The dead included 11 people inside the bar and a veteran sheriff’s sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said in the parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”
The bloodshed was the latest in what seems to be a never-ending string of deadly mass shootings that are happening with terrifying frequency across the United States.
It was the 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.
President Donald Trump praised police for their “great bravery” in the California attack and said, “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.” He ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.
Hundreds Have Lined the Highways & Overpasses For The Procession of Sgt. Ron Helus Who Was Killed Responding to Thousand Oaks Mass Shooting Overnight Where 13 People Were Killed.
— ~Marietta️ (@MariettaPosts) November 8, 2018
Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-caliber 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.
The killer also deployed a smoke device, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Authorities began a search of 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.”
Dean said his department had several previous contacts with Long, including a call to his home in April, when deputies found him angry and acting irrationally because of what authorities were told might have been PTSD. A mental health specialist met with him and didn’t feel he needed hospitalization.
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) November 8, 2018
Right before Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus rushed into the Borderline Bar & Grill on Wednesday night to respond to reports of a mass shooting, he called his wife.
“He said, ‘hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call,’” Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Helus was one of the first two law enforcement officers to arrive shortly after 11:20 p.m. About four minutes after arriving on the scene and after hearing shots fired inside, he went through the front door and was hit multiple times, Dean said.
A California Highway Patrol officer who arrived with the sergeant stepped back to secure the perimeter until additional units arrived, then pulled Helus out of the line of fire, Dean said. Helus died later at Los Robles Regional Medical Center.
Roughly 15 minutes later, a second group of law enforcement personnel had gathered and entered the bar. By then, the shooting had stopped, and the suspect was found dead with a gunshot wound. Eleven people inside were found shot dead, and others wounded.