A gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, when he opened fire in a country music bar packed with college students in California, officials and witnesses said today Thursday.
Police named the gunman as 28-year-old Ian Long, a US Marine Corps veteran and local resident. They said he likely shot himself dead inside the bar on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Speaking at press conference in the wee hours of Thursday, a sheriff said that around a dozen other people had been injured.
He said the motive of the shooting and the identity of the shooter were not known.
It was the second mass shooting in America in less than two weeks.
Witnesses said that the gunman, who was wearing a black trench-coat, threw several smoke grenades inside the Borderline Bar and Grill before he started the shooting at around 11.20pm local time on Wednesday night.
“It’s a horrific scene in there. There is blood everywhere,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters. “We have no idea if there is a terrorism link to this or not. As you know, these are ongoing investigations and that information will come out as soon as we are able to determine exactly who the suspect was and what motive he might have had for this horrific event.”
“Nothing has led me to believe… there is a terrorism link here. We certainly will look at that option.”
Dean said that the dead police officer, who was named as Ron Helus and had been on the force for 29 years, was among the first on the scene.
“They found 11 victims that had been killed,” said Dean of the first response unit before detailing that the death of Helus brought the toll to 12, not including the gunman.
President Donald Trump, commenting on the incident, said police showed “great bravery” in their response to their shooting. In a series of tweets on Thursday, he said: “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.”
The venue in the quiet, upscale Thousand Oaks suburb had been hosting an event for college students, with possibly several hundred young people in attendance, Captain Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff’s office said earlier.
Matt Wennerstron, a 20 year old college student and regular at the bar, said the shooter fired a short-barrelled pistol that apparently had a 10-15 round magazine.
“It was just semi-automatic, as many shots as he could pull, and then when it started to reload that’s when we got people out of there and I didn’t look back.”
He said he and others smashed their way out of the bar onto a balcony and then jumped down to safety. “One bar stool and straight through a window,” he told reporters.