12 people killed in Thousand Oaks bar shooting

A gunman firing seemingly at random killed a dozen people inside a crowded country-music bar late Wednesday in Southern California, authorities said, a toll that included a sheriff’s deputy who had raced inside to confront the attacker.

Authorities said the gunman — identified as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old who earlier this year was cleared by a mental-health specialist after an encounter with police — was found dead inside after apparently killing himself. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Thursday morning that investigators have not been able to determine a motive.

The bloodshed erupted inside the Borderline Bar & Grill, a popular nightspot in Thousand Oaks, Calif., a middle-class city near Los Angeles. When the gunfire began, people were line dancing during the venue’s “College Country Night,” witnesses said.

Police said Long, wearing a black sweater and wielding a .45 caliber Glock handgun with an extended magazine, marched up to the bar and shot a security guard standing outside. He then headed in and shot other employees before turning his fire on patrons, Dean said.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean, who is set to retire Friday at midnight, told reporters. “There’s blood everywhere.”

The gunfire set off a panic, as patrons grimly familiar with stories of shooting rampages at churches, schools, movie theaters, offices and other locations across the country scrambled for safety and shelter.

“They ran out of back doors, they broke windows, they went through windows, they hid up in the attic, they hid in the bathroom,” Dean said. “Unfortunately, our young people, people at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen. They think about that. Fortunately, it probably saved a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly.”

Among the dead was Ron Helus, a veteran sergeant in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office who was mortally wounded when he responded to the incident just minutes after 911 calls began flooding in, authorities said.

Helus and a Highway Patrol Officer headed into the club and exchanged fire with the attacker, Dean said. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the force with a grown son, had been on the phone with his wife when he got the call about the shooting and headed to the club, Dean said. During the shootout, he was struck several times.

“He died a hero,” Dean said, his voice cracking, “because he went in to save lives.”

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