Thousand Oaks Shooter's Health Frayed In College, Roommate Says
By John Sepulvado & Lily Jamali of KQED and Annie Gilbertson & Libby Denkmann of KPCC/LAist
He was a fit 28-year-old who studied athletic training at Cal State Northridge after serving in the Marines. Not long ago, he was often the subject of his mother's proud Facebook posts.
Ian David Long was a decorated veteran who served a tour in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday night, Long walked into the Borderline Bar and Grill armed with a handgun shortly after 11:20 p.m. and started shooting. The bullets ended when, according to authorities, Long took his own life.
By then, 12 people were dead, including a Ventura County Sheriff's sergeant who'd been on the phone with his wife when the call for help came. Authorities said he and another deputy exchanged gunfire with Long.
At least 23 more were injured.
What drew Long to turn the weapon on a crowd who came to listen to country music and dance -- a typical college night at a local hangout -- remains unknown.
"He didn't seem like the kind of person who would snap," said Blake Winnett, Long's college roomate.
Winnett said he met Long through Craigslist. He described his former roommate as quiet, paying rent and keeping to himself and his studies. But, he said, it wasn't all smooth. Winnett said Long's girlfriends expressed concerns to him about Long's mental health.
Newbury Park High School baseball coach Matt Goldfield immediately remembered Ian Long as one of his players. He was a good pitcher and outfielder who had transferred from a high school in the city of Orange his junior year.
"He was a good strong boy," Goldfield said. Long was also intense.
"He was intense in a way that he might get mad at himself," he said. "It wasn't in a bad way."
When Long told Goldfield he wanted to join the Marines, the coach tried to talk him out of it. It didn't work.
Long joined the Marine Corps when he was 18.
A Pentagon official told NPR that Long "was not a stellar Marine." The official says Long received two infractions in 2009 for shoplifting at a post exchange. Long received an administrative punishment, but it wasn't enough to force him from service and he was honorably discharged. Long received no personal awards aside from the Combat Action Ribbon, which is given to anyone who is fired on by the enemy or fires at the enemy.
Long married less than a year after entering the military. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and stayed seven months, according to Marine Corps officials. Little information was available about his marriage other than the couple separated in 2011, according to court records. They filed for divorce in May 2013, a couple months after he left the service.
That same year, Long enrolled in college. Cal State Northridge enrolls a large number of veterans and has a resource center to serve them. School officials said they were unable to say if Long had ever used those services.
"Veterans are not 18-year-old, fresh out of high school," said spokesperson Carmen Ramos Chandler. "They have experienced life in a way that so many of our traditional students have not. So we wanted to provide a place where they felt welcomed, warmly."
On Thursday afternoon, half a dozen young men were on laptops, chatting, with a television on in the background. None of them knew Ian David Long from his time at the school.
"It's a hard thing to hear any time there is a mass shooting. But when it affects young people, it gets personal. We're a university, that's who we are," Chandler said. "People know people who are impacted by this. Our hearts go out to them."
Winnett, Long's former roommate, said he was concerned that Long might have suffered from PTSD based on conversations he said Long's girlfriends had with him.
Experts caution, however, about tying possible PTSD to acts of violence.
Research on links between violent acts and mental health disorders associated with military service leaves an incomplete picture. Impulsive aggression, like getting into fistfights, has been tied to PTSD. But there was no higher likelihood for premeditated aggression in veterans suffering from PTSD.
"The stigma will only alienate them further," said Dr. Susan Michael with New Directions for Veterans, a nonprofit that provides bridge housing and services to veterans in Southern California.
Long didn't say much about his military experience, Winnett said. Though he was an experienced machine gunner, he didn't come off as particularly interested in weapons.
"He [had] one handgun," Winnett said. "I'm a gun nut. He wasn't."
At some point, Long's college plans began to unravel. University officials said he ended up leaving in 2016 without a degree.
There was a motorcycle accident sometime in 2015 or 2016, Winnett said, that resulted in Long's mother, Colleen Long, having to care for him.
"Man, I feel bad for her," Winnett said. "She is the nicest person. She doesn't deserve it."
Long moved in with his mother in Newbury Park, a middle-class community of ranch-style homes near Thousand Oaks and a short drive up the rocky coast from Los Angeles.
Colleen Long used to frequently post photos of her son in uniform on Facebook. One of the last mentions of his name took place on his birthday on March 27, 2016, when she wrote "26 years ago my sun was brighten by the birth of my son! Feels like yesterday, Happy Birthday Ian! 😘�?��?�?" A few months later, she thanks him for a Swiss army knife he appears to have given her as a gift.
But he's scarcely mentioned among the last two years of posts, which are filled with photos of dogs, hikes and baseball.
Long didn't draw much attention from Ventura County law enforcement in recent years. There'd been "minor interactions," including for a traffic collision and once when Long was the victim of battery at a local bar, according to officials.
Neighbors described him as quiet until an incident last April that rattled residents.
"I remember hearing a lot of banging noises...someone pounding," said Tim Tanner. Someone called the cops and officers swarmed in.
"[Long] was just sitting out there talking to an officer," Tanner recalled.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean described Long during the incident as "somewhat irate, acting a little irrationally."
"They called out our crisis intervention team, our mental health specialists, who met with him, talked to him," Dean said.
But they didn't feel it warranted a 5150, the code used for involuntary psychiatric commitment of someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. Long had been cleared.
Nov. 9, 3:44 p.m.: This article was updated with an interview with Long's former baseball coach.
5:09 p.m. This article was updated with information from NPR about Long's military service.
This article was originally published at 4:10 p.m.
Hey, thanks. You read the entire story. And we love you for that. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you, not advertisers. We don't have paywalls, but we do have payments (aka bills). So if you love independent, local journalism, join us. Let's make the world a better place, together. Donate now.