A US army veteran who shot dead 12 people during a college night at a country music bar in California may have snapped after suffering PTSD.
Ian Long, 28, also injured at least 23 revellers during a two-and-a-half-minute spree at the Borderline Bar & Grill.
More than 100 people, many of them students, were line dancing when the heavily tattooed ex-Marine stormed the venue in a black trenchcoat and a ski mask at 11.20pm on Wednesday.
Armed with a Glock .45 handgun and smoke bombs, he opened fire first at a security guard. One of his victims was veteran police officer Ron Helus, 54, who was due to retire next year.
As police tonight tried to determine a motive, survivors described chaos as revellers dropped to the floor, hid under tables or smashed windows to escape.
Teylor Whittler, 19, said: “It was sheer panic. Everyone ran and dropped as fast as they could.”
Six off-duty police officers also in the bar, in Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, shielded revellers from the gunfire.
Sheriff Geoff Dean said one parent told him “they stood in front of my daughter”. And he told how Sgt Helus was on the phone to his wife when he told her he needed to go as gunfire began.
Sheriff Dean said: “He went in to save lives, other people. He gave his all and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero.”
Other victims were named as Cody Coffman, 22, Alaina Housley and Justin Meek, 23.
Long turned his gun on himself as SWAT teams arrived. Sheriff Dean said they had had “several contacts” with Long for minor incidents.
He said: “In April, deputies were called to his house for a subject disturbing [the peace]. He was somewhat irate. Acting a little irrationally.” Mental health experts attending said he was not an immediate danger to himself or others.
But neighbours believed Long, who lived five miles from the bar in Newbury Park, had PTSD. One said: “I’ve no idea what he was doing with a gun”.
Another, Richard Berge, said Long’s mum “lived in fear” of what he might do, and when police were called to her home this year “it took them about a half a day to get him out of the house”.
Mr Berge added of police activity after the shooting: “When I saw the house this morning, I knew what it was.”
Long was on active duty, including in Afghanistan, from August 2008 to March 2013, the US Department of Defence said. He received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, among others. Survivors said he looked “like he knew what he was doing” with his legally purchased handgun.
Police said it had an extended magazine, illegal in California, which carried extra bullets. Witnesses estimated 30 shots were fired. Some had escaped last October’s shooting at a country festival in Las Vegas, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people from his hotel room.
President Donald Trump today ordered flags at half-mast “as a mark of solemn respect for the victims”. But critics highlighted how in 2017 he undid restrictions that kept guns out of the hands of severely mentally ill people.
It comes a week after 11 people were shot dead in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Thousand Oaks shooting grid
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