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Gunman who killed 12 at California bar identified as Ian David Long

11th Department 68 November 8, 2018
Witnesses describe panic inside bar shooting

(CNN)A US Marines veteran opened fire at a Southern California bar late Wednesday, killing at least 12 before killing himself, and sending panicked survivors scrambling through doors and windows to escape, authorities said.

Investigators believe Ian David Long, 28, used a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun with an extended magazine to shoot patrons, staff and a sheriff's deputy at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, and they're trying to figure out why he did it, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Thursday morning.

"We have no idea what the motive was at this point," Dean said.

Slain sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus was planning to retire next year.

"It's a horrific scene in there," he said earlier. "There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that."

Among those killed was Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, who rushed in minutes after the first gunshots were reported at 11:20 p.m., Dean said.

Helus had been at the department for nearly three decades and planned to retire within the next year, the sheriff said, choking back tears.

"Ron ... gave his all and tonight, he died a hero because he went in to save lives," Dean said.

The shooting broke out during the Western-style bar's weekly line dancing and college night open to people 18 and older. People dropped to the floor and hid behind bar stools in stunned silence, witnesses said. Others jumped over chairs and broke windows to get out.

Taylor Von Molt, 21, said she was line dancing when she "heard what I thought was a balloon pop."

"I heard it a couple more times, and I turned around and I saw him (the gunman)," she said. "He had ... what looked like a bandanna on the bottom on his face, sunglasses, black hoodie, dark jeans."

About 21 others were sent to hospitals with injuries and released, the sheriff's office said. Many of the injured were not shot but were hurt trying to escape, Dean said.

Authorities have yet to release the names of those who were killed or injured, and anxious friends and relatives gathered at a designated spot in the city to await word on what happened to their loved ones.

'I started hearing these big pops'

The gunman apparently arrived at the bar Wednesday night in a car, and shot a security guard who was standing outside, Dean said. Long then stepped inside, and apparently shot other security workers and employees and opened fire further inside the club, the sheriff said.

Witnesses described a man clothed in black and wearing glasses as he walked onto the dance floor filled with people.

Von Molt, who'd been dancing, ran toward the nearest exit but tripped, and people kept running on top of her in a rush to escape. Eventually she got up and ran out -- and got checked at a hospital for bruises.

Von Molt said some of her friends got out, but she didn't immediately know where others were.

John Hedge, who was at the bar with his stepfather, told CNN affiliate KABC that he hit the ground after hearing three or four popping sounds.

"I started hearing these big pops. Pop, pop, pop, he said. "I look up -- the security guard is dead. Well, I don't want to say he was dead, but he was shot."

People "dog-piled on top of each other" trying to hide in silence, California Lutheran University student Teylor Whittler told KABC. Some men ran toward them and said the gunman was coming. As they escaped through the bar's back door, she heard a second round of shots.

There was no screaming, she said -- just gunfire and stampeding crowds.

Nick Steinwender, who is part of California Lutheran's student government, said his friends were inside the bar when the shooting started.

"It was chaos, people jumping out of windows, hopping over gates and just trying to get out," he told the affiliate. "From what I heard, the gunman started shooting at the front desk. ... Students were hiding in the attics, bathrooms and stuff like that."

The bar is near several universities, including California Lutheran, which canceled Thursday's classes in response to the shooting.

Nearby Pepperdine University said it believes "multiple Pepperdine students" also were there. A prayer service for the campus community was scheduled at a theater there at noon Thursday.

Long had previous contacts with the law, sheriff says

Deputies were at Long's home Thursday morning, seeking to serve a search warrant, Dean said.

Law enforcement had several previous contacts with Long, including in April when officers were called to a disturbance at his home, the sheriff said.

"He was somewhat irate, acting a little irrationally," Dean said. Mental health specialists talked to him and didn't feel he qualified to be detained under the state's "5150" mental health detention law, Dean said.

Long also had been a victim of battery at a different Thousand Oaks bar in January 2015, the sheriff said.

Deputy killed after rushing inside

Helus, the slain sheriff's deputy, arrived at the bar 3 minutes after 911 calls came in, along with two California Highway Patrol officers, Dean said.

Helus went in because gunshots still were being fired -- and he was shot multiple times, Dean said.

A Highway Patrol officer pulled Helus out and waited for reinforcements. When more officers arrived, they found the gunman dead inside, Dean said.

Helus succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, police said. He is survived by a wife and a son.

"I don't think there's anything more heroic than what he did," a colleague, sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow, told CNN Thursday morning.

Helus was on the phone with his wife shortly before he responded to the shooting, Dean said.

"(He said), 'Hey, I have to handle a call. I love you, I'll talk to you later,' " the sheriff said.

People console one another early Thursday in Thousand Oaks, California.

Jason Coffman was one of the parents anxiously awaiting news Thursday morning about those inside the bar.

His son, Cody, 22, was there with friends -- and while his friends got out, they didn't know where Cody was, he told CNN and HLN.

The father told CNN he can track his son's cell phone -- and the tracking indicates it still was in the bar Thursday morning.

"It's at the club. It's not moving. That's the problem," said Coffman, who was awaiting information at a center for relatives.

"I am very emotional right now," he said. "This is my firstborn son and it's tough."

The father said Cody's friends woke him up at 1 a.m. to tell him about the shooting.

"I'm afraid that Cody ran to the gunman instead of away from the gunman. That's the kind of boy Cody is," he said.

City ranked one of the safest, mayor says

Thousand Oaks is in Ventura County, about 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The city "is considered one of the safest cities in the country," according to Mayor Andy Fox.

People comfort each near the shooting scene Thursday in Thousand Oaks.

"We are consistently ranked one of the highest with respect to the lowest crime rate per capita. We're proud of that," Fox said.

"The reality is that these types of incidents can happen really at any place, at any time, even in communities that are considered extremely safe."

CNN's Nicole Chavez, Keith Allen, Christina Maxouris, Shimon Prokupecz, Natalie Gallón and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this report.