UPDATED: Authorities have identified Ian David Long, a former Marine, as the gunman who killed at least 12 people, including a sheriff’s deputy, and injured dozens more in a mass shooting at a bar and restaurant in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. Long was found dead inside the Borderline Bar & Grill, a popular country-and-Western venue that was hosting its weekly college night when the attack occurred late Wednesday.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Thursday that Long is believed to have killed himself. The 28-year-old was known to authorities through minor incidents, including a traffic accident and a case of battery at a local bar, in which Long was the victim. Sheriff’s deputies also visited Long’s home last April following reports of a disturbance.
“They went to the house; they talked to him. He was somewhat irate, acting a little irrationally,” Dean said, adding that mental health specialists were called out to speak to Long and concluded that he was not a present danger to himself or others.
There were no preliminary indications the attack was terrorism-related but that the investigation was ongoing, Dean said. The FBI is assisting. It remains unclear what motivated the attack.
It was the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than two weeks. On Oct. 27, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a horrific incident,” Dean said. “It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere.”
Witnesses reported that Long, clad in black, hurled smoke bombs into the Borderline Bar & Grill as he let loose a fusillade of shots about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday. Terrified customers began shattering windows in an attempt to escape. The restaurant was filled with young people, including some from nearby California Lutheran University and from Pepperdine University in Malibu.
“I just started hearing these big pops – pop, pop, pop. There was probably three or four,” one unidentified young man told local television station KABC. “The security guard…was down. And the gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place. I saw him point to the back of the cash register, and he just kept firing. I ran out the front door. I hear chairs being thrown out the window. People were trying to get out the window.…There were probably 12 shots before I got out the front door.”
He described Long as bearded and wearing a black jacket, hat and glasses. “He had a big handgun,” the young man said. Another witness said the gunman wielded what looked like a sub-machine gun.
Teylor Whittler told KABC that she heard the initial shots and that people yelled, “Get down!” Whittler ran toward the restaurant’s back door, where “everyone pretty much dog-piled on top of each other,” she said. “And then it was silent for a couple seconds. And then all of a sudden, a couple guys that were closer to the bar, they got up and started running toward the back door and said, ‘Get up, he’s coming.’ And so it was huge panic and everyone tried getting up.”
Dean said shots were still being fired when officers arrived on the scene minutes later. Accompanied by a California Highway Patrol officer, Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus entered the bar through the front door and “was struck multiple times with gunfire,” Dean said. The CHP officer dragged Helus away, but the sergeant died a few hours later in the hospital.
Helus was a 29-year veteran of the force who had planned on retiring soon. He is survived by a wife and son.
“He died a hero,” Dean said. “He went in to save lives, to save other people.”
Other customers had scrambled to find safety in other parts of the bar. “There were people hiding in restrooms,” Dean said. “There were people hiding in attics….It’s a horrific scene in there. There’s blood everywhere.”
Squad cars and helicopters quickly swarmed the area. Sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian said that a SWAT team and officers from the Ventura and Simi Valley police departments converged on the scene, combing the area around the Borderline Bar & Grill in search of the gunman in case he had fled the restaurant.
Kuredjian and others described Thousand Oaks as a usually placid place. The city has been named in the past as one of the best places to live in Southern California.
“Thousand Oaks is considered one of the safest cities in the country,” Mayor Andy Fox told CNN. “We are consistently ranked one of the highest with respect to the lowest crime rates per capita. We’re proud of that.”