The dead included 11 people inside the bar, the gunman and a sheriff’s sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
The gunman has been identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, the local sheriff said. The suspect, who was armed with a .45-caliber handgun, was found dead at the Borderline Bar and Grill, the scene of the shooting in the city of Thousand Oaks northwest of downtown Los Angeles. “We believe he shot himself,” Dean said.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said at a news 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 Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at about 11.20pm, the sheriff said. They heard gunfire and went inside.
Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman cleared the perimeter and pulled Helus out, and waited as a SWAT team and scores more officers arrived.
By the time they entered the bar again, the gunfire had stopped, and they found the people dead inside, including the gunman. “We have had several contacts with Mr. Long over the years, minor events, a traffic collision,” Dean told a news conference.
Deputies were called to Long’s house in response to a disturbance in April this year and “felt he might be suffering from PTSD,” he said.
Long was “somewhat irate. Acting a little irrationally,” he said. However, mental health specialists who were called in “talked to him, and cleared him.” Investigators have not established a motive for the shooting, and knew of nothing that connected Long to the Borderline. Dean said Long was veteran who had served in the Marine Corps.
When the gunman entered, people screamed and fled to all corners of the bar, while a few people threw barstools through the windows and helped dozens to escape, witnesses said.
Tayler Whitler, 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,” Whitler told KABC-TV as she stood with her father in the Borderline parking lot. “It looked like he knew what he was doing.”
Shootings of any kind are very rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.
Helus was a 29-year veteran of the force with a wife and son and planned to retire in the coming year, said the sheriff, who choked back tears several times as he talked about the sergeant who was also his longtime friend.
“Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant who was totally committed,” Dean said, “and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives.”