12 victims were killed in a mass shooting when 28-year-old Marine veteran Ian David Long opened fire on Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 7. According to the Gun Violence Archive, it is the 307th mass shooting to occur in the United States in 2018.
On Wednesday night, Long shot security near the entrance of the bar before entering, setting off smoke bombs and firing into the crowd. Investigators reported the weapon as a single .45 caliber Glock 21 handgun with an extended magazine.
Geoff Dean, Ventura County Sheriff, made the following statement to the press at the media briefing:
“At 11:20 p.m., sheriff’s 911 received multiple calls of shots being fired at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Our first sheriff’s unit arrived on scene three minutes later. There were also two highway patrol officers on scene who had been on a local traffic stop, heard the traffic, and responded right away,” Dean said. “Approximately three minutes later, a highway patrol officer and a sheriff’s sergeant made entry into the Borderline because they heard shots being fired and felt there might be additional victims inside.”
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean told reporters. “There’s blood everywhere.”
Sergeant Ron Helus, 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, was among the victims. Helus was one of the first law enforcement officers responding to the scene, confronting the shooter while exchanging gunfire.
“Upon going through the front door, sheriff sergeant was struck multiple times with gunfire,” Dean said. “[Helus] died a hero because he went in to save lives.”
Helus was set to retire within the next year. He is survived by a wife and son.
Additional law enforcement units found 11 other victims inside the bar. Long, the assailant, was found dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Borderline Bar & Grill is a popular Western-style bar known for country music and swing dancing. The bar was hosting a college night on Nov. 7; several victims were students and alumni from California Lutheran University and Pepperdine University. Several survivors from the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting were also present at the bar.
Ben Campbell, one of the witnesses, hit the ground when he heard gunshots. “Windows broke — I just hopped out the window. I was one of the last people out. I didn’t see anybody. I didn’t see any guns,” he said to CBS. “I just ran.”
According to The Washington Post, Long has had previous encounters with law enforcement. In April, police responded to a disturbance at Long’s home, where authorities deemed him unqualified for an involuntary psychiatric hold under “5150,” a California mental health detention law which allows law enforcement to determine if an individual must be evaluated in a 72-hour psychiatric hold for being a danger to themselves or to others.
“The mental health experts out there cleared [Long] that day,” Dean said.
Mental health specialists suspected Long may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Defense Department records list Long as a corporal in the U.S. Marines from August 2008 to March 2013. He was stationed in Afghanistan from November 2010 to June 2011 as a machine gunner in infantry combat.
Thousand Oaks, a wealthy suburb 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was ranked by Niche as the third safest city in the United States prior to the shooting.
“It doesn’t matter what community you’re in, it doesn’t matter how safe your community is. It can happen anywhere,” Dean said.
Jerry Xu, a UCI sophomore whose family resides in Thousand Oaks, commented on the unexpected tragedy.
“Thousand Oaks was my home for so many years and I have always been proud to share that it is one of the safest cities in the United States. The tragedy is absolutely mind-numbing when I consider that it was less than a mile from my home. One of my own personal friends was at the shooting and his friend didn’t make it out alive,” he said. “There needs to be less thoughts and prayers and instead more mobilization and action in order to truly prevent another tragedy like this.”