At least 12 people were killed Wednesday in a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. A sheriff’s deputy is among the dead.
Several hundred people, many of them teenagers, were inside the Borderline Bar & Grill Wednesday night, which was hosting a “college country night” when a 29-year old white male armed with a handgun opened fire.
The shooter, who has yet to be named, was also found dead at the scene. Reports suggest he may have taken his own life. His motive for the shooting is unknown.
Police responded to a call at 11:20 p.m. local time about a shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill on 99 Rolling Oaks Dr.
The suspect was armed with a single, .45 calibre handgun and smoke devices and police said he managed to fire around 30 shots in total. According to sources speaking to the LA Times, the shooter drove his mother’s car to the bar.
Eyewitnesses say the gunman, dressed in black, threw smoke bombs into the venue before opening fire on the doorman and a cashier.
People tried to escape by using chairs to smash the windows, witnesses told CNN.
A unit from the Ventura County Sheriff and two patrols units arrived soon after. Sergeant Ron Helus entered the building with a patrol officer. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the force who was planning to retire next year, was hit by multiple shots. He later died of his injuries.
“He was hard-working, he was totally committed, he gave his all and, tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. “He gave his life to save other people.”
Dean told a news conference on Thursday that a further 11 people in the bar had been killed. “It’s a horrific scene in there,” he said. “There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that.”
The names of the other victims have yet to be released. There were around 200 people in the bar when the shooting started. NBC reported that a trail of blood was visible on the street outside the venue.
Authorities say a further 10 people were injured.
Dean said the FBI was assisting the police in trying to ascertain the suspect’s identity.
“This maniac just came in and started shooting people for no reason,” one eyewitness said.
Another eyewitness told ABC the man had a beard, was dressed in black and wore a hat.
President Donald Trump said Thursday morning that he had been briefed on the situation and thanked law enforcement for their bravery.
The bar was reportedly packed with students from the nearby California Lutheran University, California State University and Pepperdine University.
One of the people inside the bar told a local ABC station that several of his friends in the bar were survivors of the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas just over a year ago.
Officers who arrived on the scene after the shooting found people hiding in restrooms and even in the crawl space of the attic.
“We thought it was a joke”
A number of survivors have described what happened inside the bar when the gunman entered.
“It was a normal Wednesday,” one woman told reporters. “We thought it was a joke, we didn’t take it seriously at first.”
Another eyewitness told the VC Star that everything happened very quickly.
“It was all blink of the eye” he said. "Guy with a semi-automatic handgun just walked in the front and started popping rounds off at people. It wasn't really random. He was shooting people up close. So I ran to the back. A bunch of people did. I hid under a pool table. A lot of people went out the side exit.”
John Hodge, who was next to the front door when the shooter walked in, saw a suspect throwing smoke bombs into the front of the restaurant before witnessing the security guard being shot.
“I was at the front door and I was talking to my stepdad. I just started hearing these big pops,” he told ABC7. “Pop, pop, pop. There was probably three or four, I hit the ground. I look up — the security guard is dead. Well, I don't want to say he was dead, but he was shot.”
Hodge continued: “He was down. The gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place. I saw him point to the back of the cash register...and he just kept firing. I ran out the front door.”
Cover image: First responders are seen outside Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, U.S. November 7, 2018 in this image obtained from social media on November 8, 2018. (Thomas Gorden/via REUTERS)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.