At least 12 people were killed, including a sheriff’s deputy, and 10 to 12 others were wounded when a gunman entered a crowded bar during a “college country night” event and opened fire in Thousand Oaks, Calif., about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, late Wednesday. The gunman is also dead.
Witnesses said the gunman, armed with a handgun, threw smoke bombs and shot the bouncer and a cashier before opening fire on patrons at Borderline Bar and Grill about 11:20 a.m. local time. Witnesses inside described chaotic scenes, including people throwing bar stools through windows to clear an escape path. One woman said her friend threw her over a wall to get her out of harm’s way. Others hid under pool tables and in bathrooms.
Sgt. Ron Helusof the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office was fatally wounded during a confrontation with the gunman. He and a California Highway Patrol officer responded to the shooting within two minutes, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said early Thursday.
The California Highway Patrol Officer “secured the perimeter” and then rescued Helus “out of the line of the gunfire,” Dean said. Helus later died at a local hospital.
When other officers made entry into the bar about 15 minutes later, they found a bloody scene with 11 victims dead, Dean said. The gunman was also dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Authorities don’t know whether the wound was self-inflicted.
Investigators with the FBI and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office have not identified the shooter or explained the shooter’s motive.
Sgt. Ron Helus ‘died a hero’
Helus was a 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s office who was hoping to retire next year. Dean said Helus, 54, was his friend and the two often worked out together.
“Ron was a hard-working, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant. He was totally committed. He gave his all, and as I told his wife tonight, he died a hero because he went in to save lives, to save other people,” Dean told reporters, his voice cracking as he spoke.
Helus is survived by a wife and a son.
Chaos inside Borderline Bar & Grill
Witnesses reported a chaotic scene inside the bar after the gunman began shooting.
“All of a sudden you hear the bang bang of the gun shot and it just started going crazy,” one woman who was inside the bartold reporters. “We didn’t take it seriously at first because it just sounded like firecrackers.”
“Everyone just dropped down onto the floor. We couldn’t get out because the shooting was on that side,” she continued. “So our friends got the bar stools and started slamming them against the window so we could get out.”
A man who was near the front door when the shooting begantold ABC 7, “I was talking to my stepdad and I just started hearing these big pops. I look up and the security guard was shot.”
“The gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place. I saw him point to the back of the cash register. And he just kept firing.”
Another witness told ABC 7, “I should have stayed until he changed his clip, but I was worried about my boy. I probably should have stayed. I apologize to anybody who got hurt. I’m sorry. They’re so young. I’m 56. This shouldn’t have happened to them.”
Police identify the gunman and weapon used
A 29-year-old man opened fire inside Borderline Bar & Grill, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press reports. The man threw a smoke device and carried out the bar shooting with a .45-caliber handgun.
Witnesses and authorities described the gunman as wearing dark clothing and staying silent while firing inside the bar. A witnesstold CNNthe shooter wore a black trench coat and eyeglasses and had a black beard.
Students crowded in bar for ‘college night’
It was college country night at Borderline Bar & Grill, and nearby Pepperdine University said multiple students were attending.
“The University has learned that multiple Pepperdine students were at the venue at the time of the shooting, including students from Seaver College and the School of law,” reads astatementfrom the university.
Borderline Bar & Grill hosts “College Country Night” every Wednesday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to its website.
Public officials react
President Donald Trump said he’d been briefed on the news of the shooting.
California Sen. Kamala Harris extended her condolences to the victims.
“My heart aches,” she wrote. “I’m thankful for the heroic actions of law enforcement but heartbroken that they lost one of their own.”
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