People comfort each other after the mass shooting.—Reuters
People comfort each other after the mass shooting.—Reuters

THOUSAND OAKS: A 28-year-old former Marine opened fire in a California country music bar packed with college students, killing 12 people including a police officer as dozens of terrified youngsters stampeded towards the door, authorities said on Thursday.

The gunman — who apparently killed himself — stepped into the Borderline Bar and Grill at around 11:20pm on Wednesday and coolly began shooting, witnesses said, unleashing pandemonium as terrified patrons scrambled to escape.

“He had perfect form,” bar patron Teylor Whittler told Fox News. “He looked like he knew what he was doing.”

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told a news conference the suspect had been identified as Ian David Long, a veteran of the US Marine Corps.

He was found dead at the bar in Thousand Oaks, California, an upscale city northwest of Los Angeles.

Dean said authorities so far had no indication of a motive, or of any connection to terrorism. He said the victims were apparently targeted at random.

“We believe he shot himself,” said Dean, who earlier described it as a “horrific scene”. He said his department had “several contacts” with Long over the years, for minor incidents including a traffic collision, and in 2015 when he was beaten up at a local bar.

In April this year, deputies were called to his house for a disturbance and found him “acting a little irrationally”.

“They felt he might be suffering from PTSD, the fact he was a veteran and had been in the corps,” Dean said. “They called out our crisis intervention team, our mental health specialists who met him, talked to him, and cleared him.”

Dean said Long was believed to have been armed with a single handgun when he launched Wednesday’s attack. “It appears he walked up to the scene. He shot the security guard who was standing outside. He stepped inside,” he said.

“It appears that he turned to the right and shot several of the other security and employees there, and then began opening fire inside the nightclub.”

Among those killed in the assault was a three-decade veteran of the sheriff’s department, 54-year-old Ron Helus, who was married and had a grown son.

“He went in there to save people and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Dean said.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018

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