THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Authorities have identified the gunman and the handgun he used to kill 12 people at a Southern California bar Thursday crowded with hundreds of people on “college night.”
The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, said Sheriff Geoff Dean of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Dean said Long is believed to have killed himself late Wednesday inside an office at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles.
The mayor of Thousand Oaks said next-of-kin notifications are being prepared for the people who were killed and injured.
Mayor Andrew Fox said it is going to be a “very difficult day for many people.”
Authorities and witnesses said the gunman wore dark clothing and didn’t say anything as he fired inside the bar. Hundreds of people fled, some breaking windows and jumping out of second-floor windows to escape.
Dean said eight to 15 other people received minor injuries. Dean said that 150 to 200 people were inside the bar when the shooting happened.
“It could have been much, much worse,” Dean said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus responded to the scene and was shot after he entered the building. He died at a hospital early Thursday, Dean said. Helus had been with the department for 29 years and was set to retire in the next year or so. He is survived by a wife and a son.
“He was totally committed. He gave his all and tonight, and as I told his wife, he died a hero, because he went in to save lives, to save other people,” Dean said, holding back tears.
Six off-duty officers inside the bar at the time protected people by standing in front of patrons, Dean said.
Dean told reporters the scene looked “like hell.”
“There’s blood everywhere,” he said.
Officers said at least 30 shots had been fired, according to the Ventura County Star.
Dean said his department had several previous contacts with the former Marine including a call to his home in April, when deputies found him acting irate and irrationally. The sheriff said a mental health crisis team was called at that time and concluded that Long did not need to be taken into custody.
“He fired the first shot. I knew it was live. I knew it was real,” said witness Tim Hedge. “My son thought it was a joke so I pulled him down and got some cover. I looked up and he was moving to the right. He shot the front doorman, who was just a young man. Then he shot the cashier, just a young girl. Then he started moving to the right.
“He wasn’t looking at us. Then he went into the office, where all the cash and stuff is. He didn’t say anything at all. He just started shooting.”
Tayler Whitler, 19, says she was dancing and her friends were at a table by the door as the gunman opened fire. She says everyone yelled “Get down!” and it was silent for a couple seconds, then she heard “Get up, he’s coming!” and people were trampling on each other to get out.
Holden Harrah saw a bearded man walk in and shoot a woman who was behind the counter.
“I see that girl every single time I’m there,” he told CNN, fighting back tears. “I don’t know her name but (she) is someone I make small contact with and I say hi every time.”
“I don’t know if she’s alive,” he added.
Erika Sigman, 19, found herself hiding with a group of strangers, and they were holding her hands.
She says, “There is a lot of bad in this world, but there is also a lot of good and people will help.”
There were reports of the suspect using smoke grenades. People there reportedly jumped out of windows when the shooting began.
Carl Edgar told KABC-TV that some of his friends at Borderline were also at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas last year.
The Ventura County Fire Department advised people to stay away from the area.
It was college night and country two-step lessons were being offered Wednesday at the Borderline, according to its website.
The bar includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking.
It is popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University who enjoy country music.
It has been “quite some time” since there was a shooting of any kind in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.