Thousand Oaks Mass Shooting: 13 Dead, Including Sheriff's Sergeant; Gunman Identified

People comfort each other as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Eyewitness reports | Community impact | What we know about the shooter

A gunman opened fire at a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks late Wednesday night, killing a dozen people, including a Ventura County sheriff's sergeant. The shooter also died at the scene. More than 20 others were injured during the attack.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean identified the suspect as Ian David Long, 28, a Marine Corps veteran. Long allegedly shot a security guard at the entrance of The Borderline Bar and Grill, before entering the bar and opening fire on employees and patrons.

People walk away from the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded with hundreds of people on "college night," killing 12 people. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

At a Thursday morning news conference, Dean called the shooting a "tragic, senseless loss of life."

"We've got to do something about the hate," he said. "And we've got to do something to spread the love."

Authorities received multiple 911 calls of shots being fired at around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday. The bar had been hosting "Country College Night," an event that drew college-age students from around the region.

A CHP officer and Ventura County County sheriff's sergeant, later identified as Sgt. Ron Helus, arrived on the scene three minutes later.

Upon entering the front door, the two exchanged gunfire with the suspect. Sgt. Helus was shot multiple times. The CHP officer pulled him out of the line of fire and stepped back to secure the perimeter, Sheriff Dean said, but Helus died from his injuries.

When backup arrived, officers re-entered the bar and found the suspect dead, according to Dean.

Multiple agencies responded to the scene, including Ventura County Police Department, Ventura County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department, CHP and FBI.

Many at the bar fled the scene and took themselves to local hospitals. A total of 23 people suffered non-fatal injuries and have since been released, according to Ventura County Emergency Services. It wasn't immediately clear how many victims remained in the hospital.


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'WE JUST RAN'

Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the gunman opened fire. Many ran or jumped out of windows to escape the building.

"A lot of gun shots. A lot of gun shots," witness Sarah Rose Deson told our media partner NBC4. "I was just laying there. Everyone was under the table, so it was hard to kind of get under there, but I was with my friends.

"I look behind me and there's a smoke bomb going off. Like I see sparks and then I just see smoke everywhere. My friends got up and we just ran."

Cole Knapp said he and a group of people took cover behind a pool table. He estimated about 120 people were inside the bar when the gunman came in.

"He raised his arm. The first shot went off. I thought it was just someone playing a prank with an M-80, but immediately I looked at him and he continued shooting at the person behind the front desk," Knapp said.

Knapp added that they ran out a door to the smoking patio, which led to the parking lot, before hopping a fence.

People comfort each other as they sit near the scene of a mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Cal State Channel Islands student Matt Wennerstrom, 20, went to the bar every Wednesday for college night.

"I heard gunshots," Wennerstrom said. "I saw a tall, dark figure with a handgun opening fire on the girl that was standing at the front counter, which actually was one of my close friends."

Wennerstrom hid behind a pool table until he heard a break in the shooting.

"I looked up and one of my other friends had thrown a bar stool through the window, so we could get out, and then I grabbed another one and we threw that one to the window, pushed the glass out of the way and got as many people out of that window as possible," he said.

Mitchel Hunter, 19, from Simi Valley, told NBC4 that he saw the gunman with a short-barreled semi-automatic pistol with a big magazine. Hunter said he emptied the magazine and reloaded.

"It took forever to get the cops there," he added.

Three off-duty LAPD officers were at the bar during the shooting, according to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. None of them were injured and they helped others get out and assisted with medical treatment at the scene, the mayor said.

Benjamin Ginsburg escaped out of a back door and was one of the people helped by the off-duty officers. For him, Borderline Bar and Grill was a second home.

"I started going just for the dancing,"Ginsburg said in an interview with KPCC's AirTalk Thursday. "I made friends there. I have a community there."

'THIS IS A HEART THAT I WILL NEVER GET BACK'

Jason Coffman arrived at the family unification center early Thursday morning, looking for his missing son, 22-year-old Cody Coffman.

"I was woken up at my house by some knocking on my door," he told NBC4. "Some girls that were there said there was a mass shooting at Borderline where my son was and he didn't come out."

Jason Coffman displays a photo of his son Cody outside the Thousands Oaks Teen Center where he came hoping to find his son who was at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks Wednesday night. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Just before 10 a.m. Thursday, Jason Coffman got the news that his son had died inside the bar.

Speaking with reporters moments later, Jason said his firstborn son leaves behind "a legacy of love (and) laughter."

"I talked to him last night before he headed out the door," Jason Coffman said, fighting through tears. "First thing I said was 'please don't drink and drive.'" Jason's last words to his son were that he loved him.

"That was the last thing I said. Oh my god."

Jason said he has a daughter on the way and Cody "was so excited to have his first sister."

Cody Coffman had just turned 22 and planned to enlist in the military, his father said.

"I just want to pray for everybody else that is going through the same situation and there's many more to come," Coffman said.

"This is a heart that I will never get back."

'HE DIED A HERO'

The procession carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, leaves Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks on November 8, 2018. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The sheriff broke down in tears discussing the death of Sgt. Ron Helus.

"He died a hero," Dean said. "He went in to save lives, to save other people."

Helus, a Moorpark resident, was a 29-year veteran of the department and was set to retire in the next year. He is survived by his wife and son.

Dean, who is also set to retire this month, recounted how Helus would often call his wife while on duty. Wednesday night was no different. Dean said Helus was on the phone with her when the call came in of shots fired at the bar.

"He said, 'hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call,'" Dean said.

A procession for Helus began at 10 a.m., as authorities transport his body from Los Robles hospital to the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Thousand Oaks is located about 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

"Thousand Oaks is a pretty conservative, middle class community," Dean said. "We have one of the lowest crime rates in the country. This is kind of a surprise and unexpected tragic occurrence. Socioeconomics and crime rates don't have much impact on senseless acts like this."

People watch the procession carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, leave Los Robles Hospital on November 8, 2018 in Thousand Oaks. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Pepperdine University said it had multiple students who were at the bar, including students from Seaver College and the School of Law. The university later confirmed that one student, Alaina Housley, died in the attack.

Cal Lutheran University announced that 23-year-old Justin Meek, a recent graduate, had been killed in the bar shooting. The university canceled classes for Thursday and Friday but said the campus will remain open.

Students at Cal Lutheran had been working on a production of the play Columbinus, a show about the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

The production was scheduled to open today, Nov. 8, and run for two weekends. The first weekend of shows has been canceled, according to the school's theatre department. It's unclear if the second weekend of performances will happen.

Officials from Los Robles Hospital said they are in need of blood donors, especially those with O negative blood, for patients in critical condition. A blood drive is being held at La Reina High School, 106 W. Janss Rd., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments were being made by phone at 877-25-VITAL, but recent callers report the lines are overloaded. Operators suggested visiting Vitalant.org to arrange donations.

An already scheduled blood drive at the Best Western Plus Thousand Oaks Inn, 75 West Thousand Oaks Blvd., was opened up to the larger community in the wake of the shooting.

A family unification center has been set up at 1375 E. Janss Rd. in Thousand Oaks. For those looking for information on family and friends, call the emergency information hotline at 805-465-6650.

A vigil for the victims has been scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the Fred Kavli Theater at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center.

The sheriff's office said Moorpark Road south of the 101 Freeway "will continue to have heavy law enforcement presence throughout the night" and residents were advised to avoid the area.

In a tweet, the sheriff's office listed the following continued road closures:

  • Moorpark Road from Highway 101 to Los Padres Drive
  • Highway 101 on/off ramps at Moorpark Road
  • Southbound Moorpark Road is being diverted at Hillcrest Drive or Thousand Oaks Boulevard

MOTIVE UNCLEAR

A forensics team works the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Ian David Long, who lived in the area, was armed with a .45-caliber handgun, which he bought legally, and used an extended magazine, Sheriff Dean said. It was still unclear what connection the shooter had to the bar. The motive was still under investigation.

Dean said his department had "minor interactions" with the suspect over the years, including for a traffic collision and once when Long was the victim of battery at a local bar. Dean also described an incident last April at Long's home where deputies responded to a "subject disturbing" call.

"He [Long] was somewhat irate, acting a little irrationally," Dean told reporters Thursday morning. "They called out our crisis intervention team, our mental health specialists, who met with him, talked to him, and cleared him. Didn't feel he was qualified to be take under a 5150. And he was left at that scene last April."


YOUR QUESTIONS


Kristen Muller, Melissa Leu, Stephanie O'Neill, Elina Shatkin, Ryan Fonseca, Annie Gilbertson and Emily Henderson contributed to this story.

UPDATES:

2:38 p.m.: The article was updated with information on confirmed shooting victims.

2:05 p.m.: The article was updated with the most recent road closure information.

12:21 p.m.: The article was updated with information about a postponed theatre production at Cal Lutheran.

11:58 a.m.: The article was updated with quotes from Jason Coffman.

11:45 a.m.: The article was updated with information from a bar patron who escaped unharmed.

11:31 a.m.: The article was updated with information about a second blood donation site.

11:22 a.m.: The article was updated with information about the number of injured vicims and their status.

10:45 a.m.: The article was updated with information about a planned community vigil.

10:35 a.m.: The article was updated with information about the procession for Sgt. Ron Helus.

10:14 a.m.: The article was updated with information about Cody Coffman, the second known victim in the shooting.

9:55 a.m.: The article was updated with more information about blood donations .

9:34 a.m.: The article was updated with more information about Sgt. Ron Helus.

8:44 a.m.: The article was updated with information from Mayor Eric Garcetti.

8:20 a.m.: The article was updated with details of the suspect's previous interations with law enforcement.

8:08 a.m.: The article was updated with details of the shooting and canceled classes at Cal Lutheran.

7:09 a.m.: The article was updated with the identification of the gunman.

6:58 a.m.: This article was updated with more accounts from eyewitnesses.

6:13 a.m.: This article was updated with more accounts from eyewitnesses.

5:43 a.m.: This article was updated with an interview with a parent of a missing college student.

5:34 a.m.: This article was updated with information from nearby colleges.

5:26 a.m.: This article was updated with road closures.

5:10 a.m.: This article was updated with an interview from an eyewitness.

4:47 a.m.: This article was updated with an additional interview from the Ventura County sheriff.

This article was originally published at 3:53 a.m..