The Victims Of The Thousand Oaks Massacre

The Victims Of The Thousand Oaks Massacre

California Shooting Kills 12 at Country Music Bar, a Year After Las Vegas

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Country music was blaring and beer was flowing. The Lakers game was on the television, and if revelers werent line dancing they were playing pool. Then all of a sudden, into College Country Night! at the Borderline Bar & Grill stepped a man with a gun.

Wearing dark clothing and a dark baseball cap, he set off smoke bombs to create confusion. He shot a security guard at the entrance and then opened fire into the crowd. Patrons dropped to the ground, dashed under tables, hid in the bathroom and ran for exits, stepping over bodies sprawled across the floor.

CNNs Jose Pagliery, Shimon Prokupecz, Scott Glover, Paul P. Murphy, Cheri Mossburg, Ryan Browne, Sonya Hamasaki and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

I remember looking back at one point to make sure he wasnt behind me, said Sarah DeSon, a 19-year-old college student.

Just last year, they had fled the same chaos — gunshots, bodies falling — in Las Vegas, at a country music festival where 58 people were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern American history. The Borderline, a popular hangout for country music fans, had become a place of solace for dozens of survivors of the Vegas massacre to come together for music, for healing and for remembering — to celebrate life, in the words of one.

"The thoughts of every #NYPD member this morning are with the families & colleagues of all those killed or injured in the shooting inside a Thousand Oaks, Calif., bar — 12 innocent lives taken, including the first Ventura County cop on the scene: Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran," New York Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said.

And now, at least some of them belong to a group that seems uniquely American: survivors of two mass shootings.

"I have thousands of hours of specialized training," he wrote." I work or have worked, the following assignments: Custody; patrol (Deputy, Senior Deputy, Sergeant); SWAT; all aspects of firearms, less lethal, and chemical agents instruction; investigations; narcotics; and wellness advisor."

This is the second time in about a year and a month that this has happened, Nicholas Champion, a fitness trainer from Southern California who posted a group photo on Facebook of Vegas survivors gathering at the Borderline in April, said in a television interview. I was at the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting as well as probably 50 or 60 others who were in the building at the same time as me tonight.

The California sheriff's sergeant first on the scene at Wednesday night's mass shooting heard gunfire booming inside the bar and instinctively ran into the crowded venue — where he "died a hero," one of 12 people killed by a former Marine who ended the massacre by committing suicide.

When a gunman opened fire at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas last year, Telemachus Orfanos somehow survived.

Helus' LinkedIn page showed he was an FBI certified firearms instructor and a POST — Peace Officer's Standards and Training — instructor. He earned a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma, and had planned to pursue a doctorate degree in the "near future."

He was killed last night at Borderline, his mother, Susan Orfanos, said, speaking rapidly into the telephone. He made it through Las Vegas, he came home. And he didnt come home last night, and the two words I want you to write are: Gun control. Right now — so that no one else goes through this. Can you do that? Can you do that for me? Gun control.

Sergeant Helus had run to the bar with a California Highway Patrol officer, exchanging gunfire with Long, before being hit several times. Six officers from other police agencies were in the bar, Dean told the Washington Post, and a parent of one of the bar patrons said the officers had stood in front of his daughter during the shooting. Dozens of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and civilians lined the 101 overpasses as a procession moved Helus’s body from Los Robles Hospital, where he died, to the Ventura medical examiner’s office. Helus, 54, had been with the department for 29 years, was married, and had an adult son. He reportedly had been soon set to retire.

The authorities said the gunman, Ian D. Long, 28, of Newbury Park, Calif., was found dead at the scene after killing 12 people, including a sheriffs deputy, and being confronted by officers who had stormed the bar. Mr. Longs .45-caliber handgun had been purchased legally and had been outfitted with an extended magazine.

Investigators said there was no clear motive. Mr. Long, a Marine Corps veteran who had served in Afghanistan, had apparently been wrestling with his own demons: officers responded to a disturbance at his home in April, and mental health specialists spoke to him about his military service after suspecting that he might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But they decided he was not a danger to himself or others, and determined they could not force him to seek treatment.

Ian Long was a Marine who had been decorated for his service. He lived in Newbury Park and had a history with the Sheriff’s Office, mainly for traffic citations. He’d also been a victim in a bar fight. In April, however, deputies had responded to his home for a disturbance. According to Sheriff Dean, Long was irate and a little irrational. He underwent a mental evaluation and was not found in need of a 5150, or involuntary hold. His Glock was legally purchased.

The shooting inside the bar, a favorite local hangout for 25 years that hosted line-dancing lessons and allowed students in starting at 18, and where on Wednesday night several college women were celebrating their 21st birthdays, began around 11 p.m. Witnesses described sudden chaos. Among the estimated 130 to 180 people at the bar were five off-duty police officers, enjoying the night like the other partyers. As patrons dove for cover, the sounds of glass shattering and gunshots rang out in the cavernous bar. The gunman prowled the emptying dance floor, shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.

Teylor Whittler, a young woman inside the bar, saw the gunman quickly reload and fire again. He knew what he was doing, she said. He had perfect form.

Ventura County Sheriffs Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was identified as one of the 12 killed, while others still remain unaccounted for. Its estimated that 40 to 50 families were at the unification center at 1375 E. Janss Rd., hoping to hear from loved ones who may have been at the Borderline Bar & Grill when the mass shooting took place. 

The attack is only the latest in a wave of mass shootings that have plagued the country this year. A man opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue late last month, killing 11 people in an attack that officials said was motivated by anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant rage.

As the day wore on, a handful of victims were identified. Among them were Sgt. Ron Helus, a sheriffs deputy only a year or so from retirement; Alaina Housely, an 18-year-old freshman at Pepperdine who loved soccer and planned to major in English literature; and Cody Coffman, 22, a baseball umpire who planned to join the army.

12 Killed, Including Sergeant, When Gunman Opens Fire in Bar

Mr. Coffmans fathers saw his son just before he left for the bar Wednesday evening. The first thing I said to him was please dont drink and drive, he told reporters. The last thing I said was, son, I love you.

….Great bravery shown by police. California Highway Patrol was on scene within 3 minutes, with first officer to enter shot numerous times. That Sheriff’s Sergeant died in the hospital. God bless all of the victims and families of the victims. Thank you to Law Enforcement.

With mass shootings a fixture of life in this nation, Americans in large gatherings — at churches, concerts, public squares — have become accustomed to thinking through the possibilities, eyeing exit routes and weighing escape options, should the horrific happen.

Video: 12 Killed In Mass Shooting At Borderline Bar And Grill In Thousand Oaks, California | TIME

Unfortunately, our young people or people at nightclubs have learned this may happen and they think about that, said Geoff Dean, the Ventura County sheriff, whose last day on the job before retirement was scheduled for Friday. Fortunately it probably saved a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly.

Opening fire with a handgun with an illegal, extra-capacity magazine, Long shot a security guard outside the bar and then went in and took aim at employees and customers, authorities said. He also used a smoke bomb, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

One college student, Nellie Wong, was at the bar celebrating her 21st birthday. Ms. Wong was trapped in the club until the police arrived, and described the whole thing as a blur.

Matt Wennerstrom said he instinctively pulled people behind a pool table, and he and friends shielded women with their bodies after hearing the shots. When the gunman paused to reload, Wennerstrom said, he and others shattered windows with barstools and helped about 30 people escape. He heard another volley of shots once he was safely outside.

Shes alive, though, said Ms. Whittler, standing with Ms. Wong outside the bar. Shes alive for her 21st birthday.

Survivors of the rampage — mostly young people who had gone out for college night at the Borderline, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University and other schools — seemed to know what to do, having come of age in an era of active-shooter drills and deadly rampages happening with terrifying frequency.

Brendan Kelly, 22, was among those who survived both the Vegas massacre and the shooting at the Borderline. Its your worst nightmare, he said. Its terrible.

Some of the survivors of both mass shootings posted about the Las Vegas shooting on social media, including the memorial event earlier this year at the Borderline. Mr. Kelly, who has posted photographs of himself on Facebook wearing a Vegas Strong T-shirt and at a Borderline event, said in a television interview with ABC 7, a local affiliate, its too close to home. Borderline was our safe space, for lack of a better term. It was our home for the probably 30 or 45 of us who are from the greater Ventura County area who were in Vegas. That was our place where we went to the following week, three nights in a row just so we could be with each other.

A year apart, some country music fans face 2 mass shootings

The news sent convulsions through the community of Las Vegas shooting survivors who have come to call themselves the Route 91 Family, posting constantly on private Facebook groups and getting together for what they call meet-greets.

This was College Country night at the bar, where police say there were hundreds of people inside during the shooting.

Borderline is one of several places that the survivors use for these gatherings, which are meant to heal the trauma of the October 2017 shooting.

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Video: Video filmed inside Thousand Oaks bar during shooting

Janie Scott, 42, a Las Vegas survivor who runs a Facebook page for others, said that 47 people who made it out of that shooting had posted on her page that they were at Borderline last night.

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Thousand Oaks shooting: Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus was hard working, dedicated and died a hero

Theyre just broken, she said. Im hearing a lot of: Why is this our new norm? Why is this our new norm? It shouldnt be. At all.

In February, a gunman killed 17 people – most of whom were students – at a high school in Florida. In November 2017, a man entered a church in rural Texas and killed 26 people. And in October 2017, a man shot hundreds of people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas from the window of a hotel, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others. 

Just days from retirement, sheriff leads response to Thousand Oaks shooting

Molly Maurer, another person who said she was a survivor of both shootings, wrote on Facebook Thursday morning, I cant believe I am saying this again. Im alive and home safe.

The string of shootings has reignited the debate over gun control, with young people taking the lead. Earlier this year, hundreds of students, teachers and their supporters marched in large cities in the US against gun violence and called on politicians to take more action on gun control. 

Later in the day, she wrote again: In the middle of this confusion and heartbreak, I just want to take a minute to say that Borderline is our place. Our parents came here, our friends work here, we celebrate our happy moments and drown out our worst here. Were coming back from this stronger than ever.

Police said Long appeared to have shot randomly into the crowd at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, about 50km west of Los Angeles. The bar was hosting a college country music night and was packed with students and other patrons. 

Chris Weber, 26, on Thursday considered himself lucky, twice. Last night he was on his way to the Borderline from a country music concert in Los Angeles to meet friends, when they got a call about the shooting. They rushed to the scene, standing outside the police perimeter awaiting word on the fate of their friends. And last year he planned to attend the Vegas festival, but backed out at the last minute.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said on Thursday that Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-caliber handgun designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber. But Dean said the gun had an extended magazine that is illegal in California.

Las Vegas massacre survivor Telemachus Orfanos dies in Borderline Bar shooting

Someone is looking over me, he said. And for the people who got out last night, someone was looking over them too.

Many of the people he knew from the Borderline were casual acquaintances, familiar faces they saw each week, drinking beer and dancing and listening to music, even if he didnt know their names.

Video: Deadly Shooting At Bar In Southern California

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He said he knew many people who were present at both shootings. No one should have to go through a shooting, let alone twice, he said.

Michael Millar, 25, an accountant from Thousand Oaks, grew up hanging out at the Borderline, but was not there Wednesday night, unlike many of his friends. He said that for those from Thousand Oaks it is a point of pride to not be from Los Angeles, 40 miles to the east — he said residents love their 805 area code and country music is a big thing.

The community is conservative and popular with law enforcement and military veterans. It prides itself on its safety, and has been on a list of Americas safest communities. In 2017, the Ventura County Sheriffs Office handled just five murders in its jurisdiction, which covers thousands of square miles.

On Thursday Mr. Millar was speaking to a friend who survived both mass shootings. He said that just like in Vegas, when he heard the first shots he thought they were firecrackers. But this time, at the Borderline, a learned response kicked in.

Jose A. Del Real and Jennifer Medina reported from Thousand Oaks, Calif. Reporting was contributed by Thomas Fuller in Thousand Oaks; Julie Turkewitz in Denver; Gerry Mullany, Russell Goldman and Tiffany May in Hong Kong; and Matthew Haag and Matt Stevens in New York.

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