Nov. 8 (UPI) — At least a dozen people were shot dead and several more were injured by a gunman inside a Los Angeles-area dance bar, authorities said Thursday.
Investigators say the gunman walked into the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks and started throwing smoke bombs and shooting into the crowd of mostly college-age patrons.
A Ventura County sheriff’s deputy, who was among the first on the scene, was shot multiple times and died at the hospital, officials said.
The gunman also died on the scene but it wasn’t clear how, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
About 30 shots were fired in the bar. Witnesses said the shooter wore a black trench coat and glasses.
“The gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place,” a witness told KABC-TV. “I saw him point to the back of the cash register … and he just kept firing. I ran out the front door. There was probably three or four [shots].”
Another witness said the gunman was shooting people at close range.
“It was a horrific incident,” Dean said. “It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it’s impossible to put any logic or sense to the senselessness. This community in my 41 years had never experienced anything like this.”
The sheriff’s deputy who died was identified as Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department and a California Highway Patrol officer.
It was “college night” at the bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Pepperdine University tweeted that several students from the private Christian university were at the bar.
“At this time, the University is working to identify and provide support to those students. Pepperdine officials are working with authorities and will provide updates as more information is available. The university offers its deepest condolences and is praying for everyone involved,” Pepperdine tweeted.
Patrons described a chaotic scene of panic as they tried to escape the building or hide from the gunman. Others used chairs to break windows to escape. The country western bar has a large dance floor and is known for hosting large events.
A woman who didn’t give her name said she got trampled on in the chaos.
“All of the sudden, you just hear, bang bang, bang,” she said. “And it kind of paused for a second and everybody kind of just like stopped, cause it was like, ‘What?’ The music was still going. And then it just started going bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and everybody ducked down and started running.”
This is a developing story