Thousand Oaks assailant ‘just pulled out a gun and shot my friend,’ witness says
A gunman threw smoke bombs and rained bullets on a crowd of hundreds inside a Thousand Oaks bar that is popular with college students Wednesday night, leaving 12 dead including a sheriff’s sergeant shot trying to stop the carnage.
A witness said early Thursday that the gunman in the Thousand Oaks shooting was dressed in black when he entered the Borderline Bar & Grill around 11:20 p.m.
Holden Harrah, 21, was among the hundreds inside listening to music Wednesday night as a part of a college night event.
He said he looked over at the front door and saw the man walk in wearing a black hat, glasses and a black shirt. He had a beard, Harrah said.
“He just pulled out a gun and shot my friend that was working the front desk,” he said.
The first couple of shots, Harrah said, his voice wavering, hit his friend and everyone dropped to the floor immediately. Harrah said he ran out a side door.
“I heard more gunshots behind me. I was freaking out,” he said.
The suspect in the shooting that killed 12 people, Ian David Long, was known to neighbors in his Newbury Park neighborhood as a troubled ex-Marine who appeared to have serious mental health problems.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said officials discussed whether Long suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
His said his department had had several interactions with Long, including a visit to his home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace. Deputies at the time said Long was irate and acting irrationally, Dean said. They called in mental health professionals to evaluate him, and they concluded he did not need to be taken into custody.
Long was the victim of a battery at a different Thousand Oaks bar in January 2015, Dean said.
Neighbor Richard Berge, 77, said Long was known to kick in the walls of the home he lived in with his mother.
“She’s a very sweet woman, but she had a lot of problems with the son,” Berge said. “I just know he tore the house up.”
Tom Hanson, 70, also lived near the Longs.
Earlier this year, sometime in April, Hanson called police when he overheard Ian Long one morning tearing the house apart. Hanson was worried that Long would hurt himself.
“I am not surprised, but I’m shocked,” Hanson said.
According to the U.S. Marines, Long served between 2008 and 2013 and was a machine gunner. He was stationed in Afghanistan from 2010-11.
He received standard military honors including the Navy Unit Commendation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Combat Action Ribbon and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were met with gunfire, according to Dean. Helus was shot several times and died at a hospital early Thursday morning, he said.
Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department, was planning to retire next year, and Dean said he died “a hero.” He is survived by a son and his wife, whom he called before entering the bar, the sheriff said.
About 15 minutes after that initial encounter, a second group of law enforcement personnel arrived and entered the bar, the sheriff said; by then, no gunfire could be heard.
People were hiding the bar’s restrooms and in its attic, Dean said.
The suspect was found down with a gunshot wound when the officers entered the building, the sheriff said.
10:40 a.m.: This post was updated with background on Long.
6:57 a.m.: Updated with a source identifying the suspected gunman.
6:40 a.m.: Updated with suspect being resident of Newbury Park.
6:05 a.m.: Updated with suspect’s tattoos.
5:10 a.m.: Updated with the gun being purchased in Ventura County,
Originally posted at 4:50 a.m.
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