A gunman who killed 12 people at a Thousand Oaks bar was a former U.S. Marine who may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Ventura County sheriff said.
Ian David Long, 28, lived in Newbury Park, not far from the club where he threw smoke bombs and rained bullets on a crowd of more than a hundred people Wednesday night.
Sheriff Geoff Dean said his department had had several interactions with Long, including a call to his home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace. Deputies at the time said Long was irate and acting irrationally, Dean said. They called in mental health professionals to evaluate him, and they concluded he did not need to be taken into custody.
In the neighborhood where Long lived, residents said they were well aware of his problems.
Richard Berge, 77, said the former Marine had PTSD and was known to kick in the walls of the home. Long lived with his mother, Berge said.
“She’s a very sweet woman, but she had a lot of problems with the son,” Berge said. “I just know he tore the house up.”
Long was dressed in black when he burst into the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country-music-themed venue popular with college students, around 11:20 p.m. He drove his mother’s car to the bar and did not say anything before opening fire, a law enforcement official said.
The shooter was armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun with an extended magazine that he purchased legally in Simi Valley, Dean said. A source said he also had a “smoke device.”
Authorities said sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer entered the bar first and were met with gunfire from Long. Helus was shot several times and died at an area hospital early Thursday morning, according to Dean.
Helus, a 29-year Sheriff’s Department veteran who was planning to retire next year, died “a hero,” Dean said.
He is survived by a son and his wife, whom he called before entering the bar, Dean said.
“It doesn’t matter how safe your community is, it doesn’t matter how low your crime rate is — there are people who just don’t think properly everywhere, I don’t care where you are, and they commit horrific acts like this. There’s no way to process,” Dean said. “There’s no way to make sense out of the senseless.”
The first 911 calls reporting the shooting were received around 11:20 p.m., according to Dean. Helus and the CHP officer arrived and engaged the suspect by 11:26 p.m., he said.
A motive in the shooting was not immediately clear, but Dean said there was no evidence linking the attack to political terrorism.
Eleven victims and the shooter were found dead inside the bar. It was not immediately clear whether the shooter took his own life.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said. “There’s blood everywhere.”
Witnesses reported a terrifying scene as gunfire echoed through the club and those inside ran for cover, in some cases using chairs to break windows to escape. Several dived behind a pool table to shield themselves from bullets, while others hid in bathrooms and in the attic while frantically calling loved ones.