The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and the publisher of the Ventura County Star sued Ventura County on Friday, seeking the release of 911 call records from the Borderline shooting that left 12 people dead.
The lawsuit alleges that the county has violated the state’s Public Records Act by denying requests for 911 calls, dispatch calls and body and dash camera audio or video.
The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 7, when Ian David Long, 28, walked in and began firing into the crowd as patrons tried to escape, authorities said.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were the first people to run into the bar, minutes after the first 911 call. Helus was hit five times by gunfire from Long, who was armed with a knife and a .45-caliber Glock handgun with a laser sight attached.
However, the fatal bullet that struck Helus was fired from the CHP officer’s rifle, which is cited in the lawsuit. Long died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“The public has a strong public interest in fully evaluating how first responders and police reacted during the most critical phases of this tragic incident,” the lawsuit states. “Information gleaned from the 911 calls lies at the core of understanding exactly how events unfolded and will provide critical insight into the propriety of the government’s tactical responses.”
In denying requests for the documents, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said it was withholding records because they “were investigative records and exempt from disclosure.”
The lawsuit cited Senate Bill 1421, a landmark law that took effect Jan. 1, to “ensure that the public had access to all information related to any law enforcement shooting, which would include the Borderline shootings.”
The lawsuit also referenced cases where courts have compelled the disclosure of 911 calls — such as in the case of mass shootings at Route 91 Harvest Festival, the Pulse nightclub and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The requested records will shed light on the timeline of events and the corresponding police action or inaction,” the lawsuit said.
The media organizations are seeking the release of information and records responsive to the requests, “as well as an order preventing the County from delaying and obstructing access to these types of records in the future.”