The former track and field coach of California shooter Ian David Long claims that Long assaulted her while he was in high school.
“I turned on the news, I was watching it, and when they said the name, my jaw just dropped,” Dominique Colell told reporters Thursday evening.
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Long, 28, has been identified as the gunman in the shooting which took place at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night. He killed 12 people before killing himself. It was eventually discovered that Long was a former marine, and had struggled with mental health issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
According to Colell, these issues began before Long joined the Marines. One day after practice during Long’s senior year, Colell says she was attempting to find the owner of a lost cell phone, when she was assaulted.
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“Ian came up and started screaming at me that that was his phone. He just started grabbing me. He groped my butt, he groped my stomach. He went around me. I pushed him off me. I said, I’m not giving you this cell phone, get off,” she told reporters.
“And I said, you know what, for that, you’re off the team.”
She regrets not reporting the incident, though says that at the time, faculty encouraged her to accept an apology from Long so as not to ruin his military career.
“I should have reported it,” she laments.
However, she believes his mental health struggles go beyond PTSD.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people with PTSD. They don’t go around shooting people. This kid was mentally disturbed in high school, and there are signs and the administration knew it,” she said.
On Wednesday night, the former machine-gunner, dressed all in black with his hood pulled up, opened fire with a handgun at the Borderline Bar & Grill during college night, then apparently killed himself as scores of police officers closed in.
Neighbours later confirmed to police that Long had suffered from mental health issues, describing him as “odd.” He was seen by a mental health professional in April, who echoed concerns that Long may have PTSD.
U.S. President Donald Trump later referred to Long as “a very sick puppy” who “had a lot of problems.” Trump touted his efforts to fund PTSD among veterans. But he declined to engage in questions on whether the nation needed stricter gun control laws.
Investigators haven’t commented on whether mental illness played a role in the tragedy.
— With files from the Associated Press.