Matt Wennerstrom is being hailed a hero after saving at least 30 people during a shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Wednesday night that left 13 people dead by throwing a bar stool through a window so civilians could escape.
According to Wennerstorm, he had only been at the Borderline Bar & Grill for about half an hour when the shooter entered the premises.
Wennerstorm is one among several young people who acted heroically to protect fellow bar-goers on Wednesday night when a gunman stormed in and opened fire, killing 12 people before killing himself.
“I heard shots,” he told CBS in an interview, “and that’s not a noise you mistake for anything else.”
He looked up to see where the shots were coming from, and described a tall figure, about six-foot-two or six-foot-three, dressed in black and holding a handgun.
“I probably saw him for two seconds, three seconds at most, before I went into protection mode,” he told CBS. When asked who he was protecting, he told reporters that “it was whoever was right there behind the counter and then in that close vicinity to the front door.”
“At that point, I grabbed as many people around me as I could and grabbed them down under the pool table we were closest to until he ran out of bullets,” Wennerstrom told reporters.
When the gunshots paused, Wennerstorm said he knew the shooter must be reloading, and he didn’t waste the moment.
“Then we hear the shots stop or pause, at that point I knew he was reloading and there was not much he was going to be able to do so I jumped up, looked further down along the back of the bar — it’s all glass.
“I saw someone throw a bar stool through the window and I followed suit and I threw a bar stool through the window and we just pushed people towards the bar, so that they weren’t in the direct line of sight of him and then just filed as many people, everyone that was there, out through that back window,” he explained.
Wennerstrom, a student at nearby California State University, Channel Islands, soon followed them to safety. He lives near the bar and said many of the regulars grew up in the area and have known each other since they were kids.
“And then after we had gotten everyone, the few boys that were shuffling people through, we basically jumped out the window and then just pushed everyone down the side along the fence towards the parking lot.”
Moorpark College freshman Cole Knapp, after initially dismissing the loud band he heard as a prankster setting off a firecracker, told the Associated Press that he tried to get as many people to cover as he could.
“I tried to get as many people to cover as I could,” Knapp told the Associated Press. “There was an exit right next to me, so I went through that. That exit leads to a patio where people smoke. People out there didn’t really know what was going on. There’s a fence right there so I said, ‘Everyone get over the fence as quickly as you can.’ And I followed them over.”
Authorities haven’t identified what motivated former marine Ian David Long to open fire during college night at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, around 40 miles (64 kilometres) from downtown Los Angeles.
The city of about 130,000 people is consistently near the top of lists ranking the safest places in California.
— With files from the Associated Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.