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Marine Combat Veteran Kills 12 In California Bar Shooting

People comfort each other as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded with hundreds of people on "college night," wounding 11 people including a deputy who rushed to the scene.
Associated Press
People comfort each other as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded with hundreds of people on "college night," wounding 11 people including a deputy who rushed to the scene.
Marine Combat Veteran Kills 12 In California Bar Shooting
Marine Combat Veteran Kills 12 In California Bar Shooting GUESTS: Saul Gonzalez, reporter, KCRW Garen Wintemute, director, violence prevention research program at UC Davis

Our top story on Midday edition. Authorities say no motive no reason is known for a shooting at a country western bar in Thousand Oaks last night. Twelve people were killed when a man opened fire inside the bar. The shooter apparently killed himself after being confronted by police. Images from last night's show groups of dazed young people who escaped tearfully hugging each other after yet another mass murder by a gunman in America. Joining me from Thousand Oaks is Casey R.W. Reporter Saul Gonzales and Saul thank you for joining us. Thank you. What have we learned from the latest update on the shooting. Well there were 32 individuals killed last night that include the assailants who reportedly committed suicide. The others who were killed because the security guard and students who were heading Coach Knight at this country western bar. So a lot of 18 20 year old people have in the 20s. What are you hearing from people at the scene. This may shock sadness south of the community about 50 miles north of Los Angeles is a community that people feel it's just a safer place to be. They just can't believe this happened here in this place. Someone I talked to was scared some would say sit down with some of my club and the shots went out last night which will be really for a lot of frightened teenagers and middle the road leading hiding hiding behind bushes hiding behind light posts lighting the same. Terrified. Half naked. Some of them probably took out their clothes and some of them are holding their clothes on like the ones of others. Just complete care. So do we know how many people were at the borderline Bar and Grill at the time of the shooting between 100 and 150 people. They are the very big place it calls itself the largest country western venue in Ventura County. And it was packed and apparently this man came in and shot the people in lawn. He came in at slackly kind of maximum current level 30 and came in probably knowing that that there would be a lot of people there. You told us 12 people were killed if you include the shooter 13. Any word on the injured. There were 11 people taken to local hospitals. Apparently there were minor other injuries from minor rather and they have been subsequently released. Is it true that some of the people in the bar were actually at the Route 91 Country Music Festival in Las Vegas last year when a gunman opened fire on that crowd. Yeah that's my understanding mean they were part of you know kind of the country western community. This part of Southern California and certainly some of them were were there last year and experienced very much the same thing last night. But you know closer to home this time. What do we know about the shooter. Wong apparently he served in the United States Marine Corps between 2008 and 2013. He served one tour to Afghanistan where he may have a machine gun. When he got back stateside he rolled into a Northridge. Other reports that he wanted to do was a sports therapy or sports medicine. He lives in a community not far from the site of the shooting Newbury. Talk about five miles away and he was on the radar of local law enforcement he responded to some sort of incident at his home in April. Apparently that was the intruder some of the local mental health specialists but they did not have enough evidence of mental instability to take him in against his will for therapy. So again this is a person that local law enforcement knew about. To some degree but obviously no one was expecting this to happen. Do we know how he got the gun. You know we don't know. I think the assumption now is that you know he served in the military. It might be a leftover from those days in the military. What we do know is because of his military training he was very proficient with firearms very accustomed to them again he's seen gunner in Afghanistan. He also trained other Marines in Okinawa apparently so knew his way around firearms this particular firearm with a Glock 21 45 caliber. Apparently you haven't the law ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds in it and a clip that's actually illegal to sell in the state of California. And so we believe that he got the gun legally. Yeah absolutely. There's no evidence that it wasn't that it was illegal. Again we're not talking about a big semiautomatic rifle that that is often so much a topic of conversation in this country with a gun control. This is a pretty typical you know 45 caliber handgun. The only thing again that was unusual about it is that he had these extra load clips that are illegal in California. And I think the substance of what enforcement is that after we went out last year to kill people and looking kill a lot of people with the quantity of ammunition that he had already. What are they doing now investigators are they they go into this shooter's apartment and trying to piece together what this was all about. Well first off this is still a very active crime scene. So there are people a ton of skaters both local and federal at the cloyed feed itself. This country western bar they're going to his home as well where he lives with his mother. And I think they're just expanding the investigation beyond that. It was like that associations Dosso. Yes he acted with anybody else that he had collaborated in all of this. That seems to be at this moment one of these lone wolf attacks. I think a lot of people think PTSD that apparently he had wrestled with that in the past and there was some evidence yet conversations with local health people about his PTSD that this is just you know it's the first hours of what will be a very long investigation. It's dead it's something that we've all grown accustomed to the sense of like to be yet it other incidents of mass violence in the United States. And I think we all know the playbook right now and in the coming days we'll have the national conversation about gun control what's appropriate and what's not and what we do to help veterans with PTSD. I've been speaking with KCR w Sal Gonzales reporting from the scene in Thousand Oaks and Sal thank you very much. Thank you very much. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Why didn't they prevent this mass shooting. Dr. Garen Wintemute is director of the violence prevention research program at UC Davis and he studies mass shootings. He spoke with PBS as Jade Heinzman about what's working with our gun laws and what's not what has research revealed about shootings they are occurring with increasing frequency. They tend to involve firearms that have a high sustained rate of fire so large capacity magazines are frequently used very often. The shooters give off signals before hand. The details vary but of some intent to do harm or in other ways come to the attention of law enforcement. So many of us who work in the field are optimistic about the potential of policies like gun violence restraining orders to help prevent mass shootings. And you know there are some laws in place. I mean there's there's background checks. Are they working. Yes there's no question but that background checks and denials of purchase that result from them reduce risk of violence among the people who are directly affected. Background checks work at the population level. They're an administrative process. The gun violence restraining order works if you will one person at a time. And I'm aware of two mass shootings in California that did not occur because gun violence restraining orders prevented people who had declared intent to commit a mass shooting from acquiring firearms. To do that with should there be more effort put behind enforcing some of those background checks so you know I can recall the shooting that happened in Texas at a church where the air force failed to report that the shooter had some convictions behind him and he was able to purchase the gun. So yes there are a number of barriers to full implementation of background check policies such that their effectiveness is not what it could be. The military alone has not reported by their own estimates tens of thousands of prohibiting events and the shooting in Sutherlands Springs is one good example. There are other problems. Sometimes it's actually quite difficult to know whether a particular event is prohibiting or not. And there's are some forehead slappers. Federal agencies like the military are required to report prohibiting events but for state and local agencies reporting is voluntary an effort to require reporting was found to be unconstitutional so that the data on which background checks are run are incomplete. And people who are prohibited do pass background checks because of that and acquire firearms. How do our laws in California differ from other areas in the country. In many ways that are directly relevant to the tragedy today our laws are significantly stronger. We for example prohibit people with a history of violent misdemeanor crime convictions from purchasing firearms for 10 years in most of the country. It's simply a myth that violent criminals cannot legally buy guns. They can. They cannot. Here in California we also have stricter prohibition requirement for people who suffer from acute and severe mental illness that are associated with dangerousness to themselves or others and we have a gun violence restraining order law which allows in individual cases a judge to intervene about firearms under circumstances where the laws otherwise don't apply. And you know as we just heard the gun that was used in that shooting up in Thousand Oaks it was bought legally. But we also know the shooter had an extended magazine. What's the current law in California in regards to those extended magazines. So there is a law in effect that prohibits bringing those magazines into California or selling them. The legislature did adopt a statute that banned their possession. But that statute is tied up in court. So it's not being enforced. There is an injunction against its enforcement. So how does that law differ from the federal law and laws in other areas of the country as a practical matter. There aren't laws in most other areas of the country under federal law. There is a ban on importation of these magazines. If they were made after a certain date and this ban in effect for a long time but it was understood that there were tens of millions of these magazines already in the country when that ban was enacted it's also believed that manufacturers overseas simply stamped an old date on magazines as they continue to manufacture them and imported them with false they saying they'd been made before the deadline. Now I know that you know there are still details coming in about the shooting up in Thousand Oaks and we're still learning more about the shooter the motive what have we learned from this situation. This particular one is there any are there any takeaways are there any laws that could have been enforced to prevent this. Well again we we don't have the whole story. My attention is focused on an event in April when it sounds like he was in some distress and such that he was evaluated perhaps at the scene for the possibility that he might have acute mental illness none serious enough to require hospitalization and the determination was made that he did not meet what we call the 51 key criteria. Had he been hospitalized under a 51 50 hold that would have triggered a five year prohibition on purchase or possession of firearms. But this circumstance is precisely the kind of circumstance that a gun violence restraining order is designed to address. Elliot Rodger's shooting. I live this is another example in this case given the limited information that we have at the moment. A gun violence restraining order might have been appropriate. A judge could have heard or looked at a petition explaining the facts and issued an order that would have prevented this gentleman from purchasing or possessing firearms for three weeks after which he ordered were to be extended through the present. A hearing would have been required to meet due process requirements. So then what can we do the next time around. This is something that we talk about a lot frankly you know it's a special version of If you see something say something. If there is a person who is clearly going through a crisis of some sort and is making threats to cause harm whether it's to other people or to themselves. And if firearms are part of the part of the story in California family members or law enforcement can can go to a judge following procedures that are very close to those that we have for domestic violence and file a petition requesting the judge to issue a temporary prohibition on purchase or possession of firearms and then obviously if there's criminal activity involved decibels for law enforcement separately from G.V. Dr. Garen Wintemute thank you so much for joining us. A pleasure.

UPDATE: 9:50 a.m., Nov. 8, 2018

Using a smoke bomb and a handgun, a hooded Marine combat veteran dressed all in black opened fire during college night at a country music bar in Southern California, killing 12 people and sending hundreds fleeing in panic before apparently taking his own life, authorities said Thursday.

Authorities said the motive for the attack Wednesday night was under investigation.

The killer was identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a former machine gunner and decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan who was interviewed by police at his home last spring after an episode of agitated behavior that they were told might be post-traumatic stress disorder.

Screaming in fear, patrons rushed for the exits, ducked under tables and hurled barstools to smash second-floor windows and jump to safety as gunfire erupted at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University.

"I dropped to the floor," Sarah Rose DeSon told ABC's "Good Morning America." ''A friend yelled, 'Everybody down!' We were hiding behind tables trying to keep ourselves covered."

The dead included 11 people inside the bar and a veteran sheriff's sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.

"It's a horrific scene in there," Dean said in the parking lot. "There's blood everywhere."

The bloodshed was the latest in what seems to be a never-ending string of mass shootings that are happening with terrifying frequency across the United States.

It was the nation's deadliest such attack since 17 students and teachers were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

President Donald Trump praised police for their "great bravery" in the California attack and said, "God bless all of the victims and families of the victims." He ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

Long was armed with a Glock 21, a .45-caliber designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber, according to the sheriff. But it had an extended magazine — one capable of holding more ammunition — that is illegal in California, Dean said.

The killer also deployed a smoke device, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Authorities undertook a search of Long's home in Newbury Park, about 5 miles from the Borderline bar, for clues to what set him off.

"There's no indication that he targeted the employees. We haven't found any correlation," the sheriff said. "Maybe there was a motive for this particular night, but we have no information leading to that at all."

The Marine Corps said Long served from 2008 to 2013, rose to the rank of corporal and was sent to Afghanistan in 2010-11, receiving several medals and commendations.

Authorities said he had no criminal record, but Dean said officers were called to his home in April, when deputies found him angry and acting irrationally. The sheriff said officers were told he might have PTSD because of his military service. A mental health specialist met with him and didn't feel he needed to be hospitalized.

People comfort each other outside a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman opened fire and killed 12.
Mark J. Terrill AP
People comfort each other outside a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman opened fire and killed 12.

Tom Hanson, 70, who lives next door to Long and his mother, said Wednesday that he called the police about six months ago when he heard "heavy-duty banging" and shouting coming from the Longs' home.

"I was concerned because I knew he had been in the military," he said.

Hanson said the sheriff's deputy who arrived took his information, but he never learned more about what happened and hadn't spoken to Long since then. He said he was "dumbfounded" by the bloodshed.

The gunman was tall and wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered, witnesses told TV stations. He first shot a security guard standing outside, then went in and opened fire on staff members and patrons, the sheriff said.

Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived at the Borderline around 11:20 p.m. in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire and went inside, the sheriff said.

Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman pulled Helus out, then waited as a SWAT team and scores more officers arrived. Helus died early Thursday at a hospital.

By the time officers entered the bar again, the gunfire had stopped, according to the sheriff. They found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman, who was discovered in office and had apparently shot himself, the sheriff said.

"There's no doubt that they saved lives by going in there and engaging with the suspect," said Dean, who was set to retire on Friday. He praised the slain officer — a close friend — as a hero: "He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price."

In addition to the dead, one other person was wounded by gunfire, and as many as 15 others suffered minor injuries from jumping out windows or diving under tables, authorities said.

People at the bar fled from all exits, broke through windows and hid in the attic and bathrooms, the sheriff said.

"Unfortunately our young people, people at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen, and they think about that. Fortunately it helped save a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly," he said.

Shootings of any kind are extremely rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Los Angeles, just across the county line.

The Borderline, which includes a large dance hall along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, was holding its regular "College Country Nights" when the attack took place.

Nick Steinwender, Cal Lutheran student body president, told KTLA-TV he immediately started receiving messages about the shooting, and he and his roommate went to the scene to offer rides back to campus or moral support.

"It's going to be a very somber day," Steinwender said. "I know we don't have all the details in yet, but you know, it just feels like it's an attack on our community. You know, I think it's going to be something that we're going to have to come together and move past."

The bar is also close to several other universities, including California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Moorpark College in Moorpark.

Cole Knapp, a freshman at Moorpark, said he was inside the bar when the shooting began, but he thought at first that it was "just someone with an M-80, just kind of playing a prank." Then he said he saw the gunman, wearing a small black head covering and black hoodie and holding a handgun.

"I tried to get as many people to cover as I could," Knapp said. "There was an exit right next to me, so I went through that. That exit leads to a patio where people smoke. People out there didn't really know what was going on. There's a fence right there so I said, 'Everyone get over the fence as quickly as you can,' and I followed them over."

He said a highway patrol officer who happened to be pulling someone over was nearby.

"I screamed to him, 'There's a shooter in there!' He was kind of in disbelief, then saw that I was serious," Knapp said. He said he had friends who hadn't been accounted for.

Tayler Whitler, 19, said she was on the dance floor with her friends nearby when she saw the gunman shooting and heard screams of "Get down!"

"It was really, really, really shocking," Whitler told KABC-TV as she stood with her father in the parking lot. "It looked like he knew what he was doing."

The slain sheriff's officer was a 29-year veteran of the force with a wife and son and planned to retire in the coming year, said the sheriff, choking back tears.

"Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff's sergeant who was totally committed," Dean said, "and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives."