Like every Wednesday at Borderline Bar and Grill, college students and adults were line dancing, playing pool, and enjoying time with friends, family, and significant others at its weekly College Country Music Night in Thousand Oaks, California. This Wednesday, November 7, many of the around 200 attendees were line dancing at 11:20 p.m. when the first gunshot rang out, signifying the beginning of the United States’ second deadliest mass shooting in 2018.
When police arrived on the scene the shooter was already dead. He had killed 12 and injured at least a dozen more. The shooter has been identified as 28-year-old former Marine Corps Ian David Long.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” said Geoff Dean, the Ventura County Sheriff. “There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that.”
Credit: AP Photo/ Mark J. Terrill.
People hug each other outside of the scene
While the exact chronology of the shooting is still unknown by police as they sort through statements, Dean explained how the shooting might have occurred to reporters.
Dean said the gunman walked up to the bar and used a Glock .45-caliber handgun with an extended magazine to shoot the security guard outside. The gunman then entered the bar and turned right to shoot the other security guards and employees. The he opened fire inside the bar.
Witnesses reported that the gunman fired several shots from a handgun and threw smoke bombs into the crowded bar.
Within minutes, Ron Helus, 54, a veteran sergeant with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, and a highway patrolman responded to the 911 calls from the bar. Helus and the gunman exchanged gunfire until the patrolman pulled Helus out of the line of fire and out of the bar. They then waited for the SWAT team and more officers to arrive.
When the other officers arrived and entered the bar the gunman was found dead inside an office next to the bars entrance. It is believed that the gunman shot himself, Dean said.
Police still do not know the motive for the shooting.
So far, the police do know that the shooter only had “minor” run ins with law enforcement including a disturbance call made to his home for which he was cleared by the county’s mental health team. They also learned the gunman had frequented the bar and was considered a member of the community.
Credit: AP Photo/ Mark J. Terrill.
People sit near the scene of the attack
Statements from witnesses are helping officers piece together the timeline of the attack more accurately.
One witness, Taylor Whittler, who was interviewed by ABC7, was there for her friend’s 21st birthday with a group of 11 friends. She is the daughter of a military veteran which she said helped her know what to do to stay alive.
Whittler said that the shooter appeared to know what he was doing, using perfect form when she saw him shoot three people. She was on the dance floor when she first heard a gunshot behind her.
“We all just kindof froze for a split second and then everyone booked it and dove to the floor,” said Whittler. “After the first round it was quiet for about five seconds and then some guys got up and started sprinting towards the back door and yelled at everyone: ‘Get up. Run. He’s coming.'”
Whittler said a group of 50 people started to run towards the back door, but she got trampled and caught on the dance floor. When she finally got up, she was hit in the head by a barstool that had been thrown at a window. She said she went to hide under a table, but a man came up behind her and pulled her up by her waist telling her: “Run. Let’s go.”
“At that moment I didn’t know if I was able to get up or not and if that guy was really coming what was going to happen to me,” said Whittler. “And the only thing going through my head the entire time was ‘Get out. You got to get out and get safe.'”
At the time of the interview Whittler still was missing five of her friends.
Another two witnesses interviewed by CBS were Cole Knapp and Matt Wennerstrom who were both there with their friends and family.
“It was just a normal Wednesday night, but as soon as it all started it just went to utter chaos,” said Knapp. “We both tried to get as many people behind cover as we could.”
Like many others, Wennerstrom was able to throw a barstool through a window to create an exit and help shuffle those around him out to safety.
“These people that we were here with, these are our family. Cole and I, we come here weekly, we grew up with them. It’s not something where you just get out of there and fend for yourself. It’s what can I do to protect as many of my friends as possible,” said Wennerstrom. “To give my friends and my family the chance to live another day, I want nothing more than that. So we did what we had to do to get out of there.”
As a country dance hall, many of the people who frequent Borderline Bar and Grill are the same people who attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas where there also was a mass shooting October 1, 2017.
Chandler Gunn, another witness, said both him and a friend who works at the bar were also at the Route 91 mass shooting.
“A lot of people in the Route 91 situation go here,” Gunn said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “There’s people that live a whole lifetime without seeing this, and then there’s people that have seen it twice.”
Credit: Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG.
Sheriff’s department personnel salute the funeral procession of Sgt. Helus
Of the 12 victims, 11 have been identified according to CBS. One of the 11 includes Sgt. Helus, who after being shot multiple times by the gunman died in the hospital early Thursday morning. The community is regarding Helus as a hero for his attempt to intervene and rescue people.
“Ron was a hardworking dedicated sheriff sergeant,” Dean said holding back tears. “He was totally committed. He gave his all. And tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives. To save other people.”
The other victims identified are: Alaina Housley, 18, a Pepperdine University freshman who intended to study law; Kristina Morisette, 20, who worked at Borderline Bar and Grill; Noel Sparks, 21, a Moorpark College student; Blake Dingman, 21, from Newbury Park; Jake Dunham, 21; Cody Coffman, 22, who was planning on enlisting in the Army; Justin Meek, 23, a promoter at Borderline Bar and Grill; Telemachus Orfanos, 27, a survivor of the Route 91 Las Vegas mass shooting; Daniel Manrique, 33, a Marine Corps veteran; and Sean Adler, 48, who owned Rivalry Roasters coffee shop.
Of those injured, 11 have been released from the area’s hospitals according the sheriff’s office.
In response to the attack, California’s recently elected officials are calling for action against gun violence through stricter gun control.
“Today we add Thousand Oaks to the ever-growing list of communities that have suffered mass shootings,” said California Senator Dianne Feinstein in a statement. “These mass murders are depressingly pervasive. Schools. Theaters. Malls. Offices. Synagogues. Grocery stores. Bars. Concerts. Churches. They’re inspired by racism, revenge, terrorism or just pure hatred. The one common attribute: easy access to guns.”
This is the 307th mass shooting out of the 311 days this year. The last mass shooting was 11 days earlier when 11 people were shot at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Borderline Bar shooting now is the second deadliest mass shooting for all of 2018 in the U.S., after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Before Wednesday, Thousand Oaks was considered one of the safest cities in the country.