California mass shooting: Ex-marine who killed 12 ‘acted alone’

FBI to investigate motive after gunman opens fire at a bar in Thousand Oaks

November 8th, 2011: Survivors describe a mass shooting at a bar in the LA suburb of Thousand Oaks. 13 people were killed, including a sheriff's deputy and the suspected gunman, who was shot dead by police. Video: Reuters

 

A gunman opened fire in a crowded southern California bar popular with college students, killing 12 people including a sheriff’s deputy, police said on Thursday, in the latest US mass shooting that stunned a community with a reputation for safety.

The gunman, identified by authorities as Ian David Long (28), was found dead in the office of the Borderline Bar and Grill, located in Thousand Oaks, a suburb about 64km northwest of Los Angeles after the incident on Wednesday night, apparently having shot himself.

A woman who fled the Borderline Bar and Grill where a gunman injured 11 people is hugged by relatives in Thousand Oaks, California. Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA
A woman who fled the Borderline Bar and Grill where a gunman killed 12 people is hugged by relatives in Thousand Oaks, California. Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA

Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles FBI, told a news conference that it was too early to speculate on the gunman’s motives but that he appeared to have acted alone. “We will be sure to paint a picture of the state of mind of the subject and do our best to identify a motivation,” Mr Delacourt said, adding that the FBI would investigate any possible “radicalisation” or links to militant groups.

Ventura County sheriff Geoff Dean told a news conference on Thursday morning that Long had apparently fired at random with a .45-caliber Glock handgun with an extra-capacity magazine.

There was no known motive, he said.

“Obviously he had something going on in his head that would cause him to do something like this,” Mr Dean said. “Obviously he had some sort of issues.”

Long was in the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2013, reaching the rank of corporal, and served as a machine gunner who was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months. Mr Dean said it was possible that Long had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Dean told reporters that officers had gone to Long’s home in nearby Newbury Park in April to answer a disturbance call and found him to be agitated.

Mental health specialists talked with Long and determined that no further action was necessary.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean briefs reporters in Thousand Oaks, CaliforniaPhotograph: Frederic Browne/AFP/Getty Images
Ventura County sheriff Geoff Dean briefs reporters in Thousand Oaks, California. Photograph: Frederic Browne/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Dean said authorities were waiting for a search warrant for Long’s home.

The bar shooting was the latest mass killing in the United States and was sure to revive the debate on gun control. Less than two weeks ago 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh were killed by a man shouting “All Jews must die.”

Witnesses

The Borderline is popular with university students and on Wednesday night hosted College Country Night. California Lutheran University, located about 6km from the bar, cancelled classes on Thursday while Pepperdine University planned a prayer service.

Bar patron Cole Knapp (19) told Reuters he saw the gunman walk in and stop at the counter, apparently paying a cover charge. Then Mr Knapp heard gunfire and saw a young woman at the counter shot repeatedly.

“It took a couple of seconds for people to realise what was going on and once that happened it was just utter chaos,” he said.

Mr Knapp said he first helped people hide behind a pool table and then fled to the bar’s outdoor smoking patio, where people were unaware of the shooting.

Once outside, Mr Knapp said he and a friend helped carry a gunshot victim to an ambulance.

“I’m just reeling, riding on adrenaline right now,” he said. “It’s just kind of unbelievable that somebody would want to come to a place I care about and hurt people that I care about.”

Thousand Oaks, with a population of about 127,000, is a leafy, sprawling suburb and was named the third safest city in the United States for 2018 by Niche, a company that researches schools, income, real estate, crime and other livability factors in ranking cities.

“I’ve learned it doesn’t matter what community you’re in,” Mr Dean told reporters when asked if he was surprised this happened in Thousand Oaks. “It doesn’t matter how safe your community is. It can happen anywhere.”

A man holds his head in his hands outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California on November 8th Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA
A man holds his head in his hands outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 8th. Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA

One man, Jason Coffman, told reporters that his son, Cody (22), was among the dead. “This is going to be an absolutely heartwrenching time for me and my family,” Mr Coffman said. “This is a heart that I will never get back.”

Names of the victims were not immediately made public and about 60 people were gathered at a teen centre in Thousand Oaks waiting to learn if their loved ones were among the dead. After families were briefed, one man sat outside on the curb sobbing loudly.

Jennifer Avalos (20) held back tears as she left the teen centre, where she had hoped to learn the fate of her friend, Noel Sparks (21), who had been at Borderline. They had texted each before the shooting but Sparks did not come home.

Deputy killed

Ventura County sheriff’s office sergeant Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran, was one of the first law-enforcement officials to reach the Borderline at about 11.30pm local time. He was shot in the bar and died at a hospital, Mr Dean said.

A handout photo made available by Ventura County Sheriff Department showing Sgt Ron Helus. Photograph: EPA/Venture County Sheriff Dept/Handout
A handout photo made available by Ventura County sheriff department showing Sgt Ron Helus. Photograph: EPA/Venture County sheriff dept/Handout

A statement from the sheriff’s office said there would be a procession in honour of Helus on Thursday morning. “Ron’s selfless, heroic actions will never be forgotten,” the statement read. He is survived by a wife and son.

Asked what the scene inside the bar was like, Mr Dean said: “Like . . . hell.” Earlier he had described it as “a horrific scene in there. There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that.”

Mr Dean, who was speaking on his last day before retirement, said he had been told 150 to 200 people were in the Borderline at the time. “It could have been much, much worse,” he said.

Mr Dean estimated 10 to 15 people, including one with a gunshot wound, had gone to hospitals. He said he believed their injuries were minor, and that most were likely injured as they escaped, some by breaking windows.

US president Donald Trump, who has resisted a surge in calls for tougher gun control measures since 17 students and staff were shot dead at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida earlier this year, ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at public buildings and grounds. – Reuters