Thirteen people are dead, including a deputy sheriff and the gunman, after a man opened fire in a crowded country dance bar in Thousands Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night, police said.
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Hundreds of people were packed inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Southern California, which was holding a weekly “college night,” when gunfire broke out around 11:20 p.m. People fled in terror, some even used bar stools to break windows and escape, police said.
Police later identified the gunman as 28-year-old Ian Long.
Speaking to the media Thursday morning, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Long walked up to the bar, shot a security guard standing outside and then stepped inside the nightclub. The gunman then turned to the right and shot several security guards and employees at the bar and continued firing.
Dean said he appeared to have shot at random inside the club, using only a Glock .45-calibre handgun. There was no known motive, he said.
WATCH: A gunman opened fire in a crowded dance bar on Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Dean said 13 people, including the gunman, were found dead inside the bar. Police believe Long shot himself.
Cody Coffman, 22, was confirmed by family members as one of the victims. He was in the process of applying for the Armed Forces, his father, Jason Coffman told reporters Thursday.
“Last thing I said was, ‘son, I love you.’ That’s the last thing I said,” he said, choking back tears.
Ten to 15 other people were injured, police said. One person suffered from a gunshot wound and the others had minor injuries, such as cuts from jumping out windows or diving under tables.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said at a media conference early Thursday in the parking lot of the Borderline Bar & Grill. “There’s blood everywhere.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman were responding to several 911 calls when they arrived at the bar, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. The officers heard gunfire and went inside.
Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman pulled Helus out and waited as a SWAT team and more police arrived. Helus died in the hospital early Thursday.
“There’s no doubt that they saved lives by going in there and engaging with the subject,” Dean said. “It could have been much, much worse.”
Helus was a 29-year police veteran with a wife and son who was looking to retire in the next year.
“He was hardworking, he was totally committed, he gave his all and, tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said as he choked back tears. “He gave his life to save other people.”
‘It looked like he knew what he was doing’
Several people who were inside the bar told media that a tall man wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered, first shot at someone working the door, then opened fire, seemingly at random, at the people inside.
Witnesses also said he threw a smoke grenade into the bar before opening fire with a handgun.
Teylor Whittler, 19, said she was on the dance floor with her friends nearby when she saw the gunman shooting and heard screams to “get down.”
“It was really, really really shocking,” Whittler told KABC-TV as she stood with her father in the Borderline parking lot. “It looked like he knew what he was doing.”
Another witness told KABC-TV that people inside the bar were young.
“They were just young people, like 18, 19, 20, just having a great time, then this maniac came in and started shooting people for no reason at all. These people have never hurt anybody in their lives. They’re kids, they’re just kids, I’m sorry,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had been briefed about the deadly mass shooting.
“I have been fully briefed on the terrible shooting in California. Law Enforcement and First Responders, together with the FBI, are on scene,” he wrote on Twitter.
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The Borderline Bar & Grill was holding a college night and offering country two-step lessons.
The bar, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University. It’s also close to several other universities including California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Moorpark College in Moorpark.
Shooter was known to police
Police said Long, who lived in the area, had previous run-ins with police, including one instance in April where he acted “irrationally.” However, at the time, the police force’s mental health crisis team determined Long didn’t need to be taken into custody.
Dean said Long was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Crops and may have been suffering from PTSD.
He had other interactions with law enforcement, including a traffic accident and an incident when he was the victim of a battery at a bar.
Shootings of any kind are very rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 64 kilometres west of Los Angeles.
The incident came less than two weeks after a gunman with an automatic rifle fatally shot 11 people during Sabbath services at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
— With files from the Associated Press
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