A “college country night” at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., turned into tragedy after a man entered and opened fire.
Twelve people were killed in the incident Wednesday night, including a deputy sheriff who tried to enter the bar. The gunman was also found dead, bringing the death toll up to 13.
Around 10 other people were shot and injured, police said.
Police say there were hundreds of people at the Borderline nightclub.
Witnesses say they saw a man, dressed in black, enter the bar and immediately open fire, including at the person working the door.
“I’m pretty sure I saw him, and I’ll never get that picture out of my head,” Sarah Rose-Desowen said.
“What I saw with my own two eyes was a gentleman, who walked in through the front door, shot the girl that was right behind the counter,” Holden Harrah told CNN.
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“I see this girl every single time I’m there, I don’t know her name … the first two gunshots hit her, I just don’t know if she’s alive,” he said through tears.
The gunman, who hasn’t been identified, threw smoke grenades and opened fire. Some witnesses said he was indiscriminately shooting, but others said he headed for the cash register of the bar.
Teylor Whittler told KABC-TC, “It looked like he knew what he was doing.”
Some people threw themselves on the ground or hid in bathrooms and under the stools to get away.
“We dropped, we heard the gunshots, a lot of gunshots, lots. And I was just laying there,“ Rose-Desowen said.
“We were hiding under the stools and there was like a little smoke bomb,” Erica Sigman said.
Heroic stories of helping hands
Other people tried to use chairs or bar stools to break windows to escape and to pull others to safety.
“A guy was able to throw me out the window,” Savannah, who only gave her first name, told CBS.
“They had chairs and threw them out the window, and they were able to take me and my girlfriend out the window and carried us out here. I was able to get out, so I don’t know how long it was going on for, but it felt like at least five minutes. It probably went on for at least 10.”
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“It was a huge panic, everyone got up, I was trampled, I was kind of left on the floor until some guy came behind me and grabbed me and dragged me out,” Whittler said.
Police tried to enter the club during the shooting, which is when Sgt. Ron Helus was shot and killed.
“He died a hero because he went in to save lives,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Thursday morning.
Police pulled Helus’ body out of the club and waited for a SWAT team to arrive. When they re-entered the club, the shooting was over and the gunman was dead.
“It’s a horrific scene in there. There’s blood everywhere,” Dean said.