A man armed with a semi-automatic handgun opened fire the night of Wednesday, November 8, 2018, at a country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, California, murdering 12 people, including a sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene of the shooting. Police entered the dance hall to find the gunman, 28-year-old Ian David Long, also dead.
The shooting took place at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Police found the shooter dead of an apparent gunshot wound in an office next to the bar’s entryway. He was a veteran of the US Marine Corps, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. “We believe he shot himself,” Dean told CNN, adding, “We have no idea what the motive was at this point.” Police are keeping an open mind, entertaining all possibilities, including whether the attack could be related to terrorism.
Sheriff’s Department officials say Long opened fire around 11:20 p.m. Witnesses say a man dressed in black and wearing sunglasses walked onto the crowded dance floor and began shooting. “It’s a horrific scene in there,” said Sheriff Dean. “There is blood everywhere, and the suspect is part of that, and I didn’t want to get that close and disturb the scene.”
Long murdered at least 12 people before shooting himself dead. At least 10 to 15 other people are believed to have been injured when Long entered the Borderline Bar & Grill armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun. Sheriff Dean noted that while the gun was designed to hold 11 rounds, Long’s weapon was outfitted with an extended magazine.
Police are investigating reports that the gunman used a smoke bomb but have found no physical evidence yet to support the contention. “We have called in our bomb team to go through and a couple of bomb dogs here that are checking the area,” Sheriff Dean said. A witness speaking to ABC7 said the violence began when the gunman walked up to the entrance of the bar, shot a security guard and the cashier and threw a smoke bomb.
Witnesses say the bar was hosting a college night with country line dancing, open to patrons 18 or older. Witnesses say hundreds of people, many college students, were in the bar at the time of the shooting. The Borderline Bar & Grill is close to several colleges, including Pepperdine and California Lutheran. Among the dead is Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus, who responded to the scene on Wednesday night. Helus was a 30-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Dean said.
Bar patrons were line dancing when the shooting started. Taylor Von Molt, 21, was dancing at the time when she “heard what I thought was a balloon pop. I heard it a couple more times, and I turned around and saw him. He had […] what looked like a bandanna on the bottom on his face, sunglasses, black hoodie, dark jeans.” People dropped to the floor, witnesses say, hiding behind bar stools. A few jumped over chairs and broke windows to escape.
One witness who was inside the bar, Teylor Whittler, told the New York Times that the gunman appeared calm. He didn’t seem to be targeting anyone in particular.
Many people tried to hide in silence, but there was also commotion in the Thousand Oaks bar, around 40 miles west of Los Angeles. Witnesses say the bar was silent – no screaming, just “stampeding crowds” and intermittent gunshots. “It was chaos, people jumping out of windows, hopping over gates, and just trying to get out,” according to Nick Steinwender, a student at California Lutheran whose friends were inside the bar at the time of the shooting. “From what I heard, the gunman started shooting at the front desk. Students were hiding in the attic bathrooms.”
Some parents are still awaiting news about their children. Jason Coffman has gathered at a center set up for relatives affected by the shooting. Coffman’s son, 22-year-old Cody, is still unaccounted for. Coffman is tracking his son’s cell phone, which says that the phone is still inside the bar. “It’s at the club,” Coffman told CNN. “It’s not moving. That’s the problem.” Families and loved ones gathered Thursday morning at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center.
The shooting on Wednesday is the deadliest in Southern California since 2015 when 14 were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino. Thousand Oaks, California, is routinely ranked among the safest cities in America.
Witnesses expressed shock that any violence of this sort could be carried out at the Borderline Bar and Grill. “It’s safe,” says Erika Sigman, a student at Cal State Channel Island. “You can stay out all night at Borderline because there’s major security.”