A Pepperdine University student was among those still missing Thursday following an overnight shooting massacre at a Thousand Oaks nightclub crowded with patrons, including a group of students from the Malibu college and three off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officers.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said 13 people died in the shooting, including a sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman, identified as 28-year-old former Marine and Cal State Northridge student Ian David Long. Long, who lived with his mother in Newbury Park, is believed to have committed suicide as law enforcement descended on the club.
None of the other people who died have been formally identified. The three LAPD officers who were at the club were not injured.
Pepperdine officials said they have confirmed that “several” of the university’s students were at the Borderline Bar and Grill when the shooting erupted late Wednesday night. Some media reports from the scene indicated that about 20 Pepperdine students were at the club.
One of them was freshman Alaina Housley, a niece of former Fox News national correspondent Adam Housley. Alaina Housley remained unaccounted for Thursday morning. Adam Housley told the Los Angeles Times his niece’s Apple Watch and iPhone continued to show her location as the dance floor at Borderline.
On his Facebook and Instagram pages, Adam Housley posted a photo of his niece and wrote, “I really don’t know what to say other than I love this girl with all my heart and I’d give my life right now for a miracle.”
Classes were continuing at Pepperdine, but university officials said students “who need to adjust their class schedules today as a result of yesterday’s event are encouraged to do so.” Counselors were available on the campus, and a midday prayer service was planned at the university’s Smothers Theatre.
Dean said the gunman went to the club around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, shot a security guard outside, then walked into the building and shot more employees before opening fire on the crowd. It was a country-music-themed college night at the bar, meaning it was open to people aged 18 and over.
Dean said Long was armed with a Glock .45-caliber handgun that had an “extended magazine” allowing it to hold more than the standard number of 10 bullets. He purchased the gun legally, Dean said, although the magazine extension would make it illegal in the state.
Among the first responders to the shooting scene was Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who burst into the club with a California Highway Patrol officer. Dean said there was an exchange of gunfire with the suspect, and Helus was struck. The CHP officer managed to pull Helus from the building, and the sergeant was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The 54-year-old Helus, a 29-year-veteran of the department, was a married father of a grown son. He had just called his wife and told her he loved her before he responded to the Borderline bar, Dean said.
When additional law enforcement arrived and entered the building, they found the gunman in an office near the club’s entrance, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot, Dean said. There was no immediate word on a motive for why Long carried out the shooting.
Dean said sheriff’s officials had limited contact with Long over the years, including once over a traffic collision. He said deputies went to his home in April due to a disturbance and spoke with Long, but he was not arrested and was not considered a danger or a candidate to be taken into custody for a mental-health evaluation.
Long, who reportedly spent more than four years in Afghanistan as a Marine machine-gunner, lived with his mother in Newbury Park. He attended CSUN from 2013-16, studying athletic training, according to the university. He did not graduate.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter that three off-duty LAPD officers were at the bar “but are thankfully uninjured.”
“They assisted in evacuation & treatment on-scene,” Garcetti wrote. “City flags will be at half-mast today in honor of victims, including @VENTURASHERIFF Sgt. Ron Helus who died a hero.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore, in a television interview Thursday morning, said he spoke with Dean in the aftermath of the shooting.
“I spoke last night in the early morning hours with the sheriff, a tremendous man, a person who had great composure, whose men and women responded immediately, as did the CHP, and fire, and other first responders to really render aid and to do everything possible to stop this horrific attack,” Moore said.
“I congratulate the Ventura sheriff’s (department), the FBI, the ATF, the joint efforts,” Moore said. “They are doing everything possible to understand the nature of this gunman’s actions and what would motivate a person to do such a horrific level of violence.”
About 10 a.m., a solemn procession of numerous law enforcement and first responder vehicles escorted Helus’ body from the Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks to the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office in Ventura.
A vigil was planned for 6 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center, said Thousand Oaks Mayor Andrew Fox, who announced a website for people to send donations to assist the victims: www.VCCF.org.
Dean said Helus was “a hard-working, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant. He died a hero because he went in to save other people.”
At least 23 other people were injured in the melee and have sought treatment at various hospitals in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Most suffered minor injuries, Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Brian McGrath told CBS2.
Witnesses told stories of people inside the bar using chairs to break windows and help others escape the shooting.
Crews from the Los Angeles city and county fire departments provided support to Ventura County firefighters at the scene. County fire crews that responded were later cleared and released.
Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas, in a Tweet, wrote: “Your @LAFD sends condolences to @VENTURASHERIFF & family & friends who lost loved ones in last night’s tragedy. We stand ready to assist in any way necessary.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, also in a Tweet, said: “The #LASD stands with all of #ThousandOaks in full support and mourning for all those affected by this senseless shooting. We grieve alongside the @VENTURASHERIFF who lost a brave public servant in Sergeant Ron Helus. He gave his life to save others.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department posted on Twitter: “Our thoughts & prayers go out to all who have suffered a loss as a result of the incident in Thousand Oaks. Sergeant Helus was killed in the line of duty running into the #Borderline Bar to stop the shooter. Our condolences to @VENTURASHERIFF as they mourn the loss of a hero.”
Also tweeting about the massacre were the Los Angeles Rams, which has a training facility and its corporate headquarters in Thousand Oaks.
“The Los Angeles Rams organization is heartbroken by the horrific shooting that took place last night in our community of Thousand Oaks. Our thoughts are prayers are with the victims, their families and our entire community.”
The Chargers also tweeted, “We are deeply saddened by the terrible news coming out of Thousand Oaks this morning. Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones during this horrific tragedy, and we honor the brave and heroic actions of first responders who rushed to the scene to help.”
Also tweeting about the violence was the Rev. Joseph Gomez, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, whose archdiocese includes Ventura County.
“Like many of you, I woke this morning to news of the horrible violence last night at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks,” Gomez wrote. “Let us pray hard for all the families, for those who were murdered and those who were injured, and in a special way for the heroic officer, Sgt. Ron Helus, who lost his life defending people in the attack. May God grant perpetual light to those who have died, and may he bring comfort to their loved ones and peace to our community.”
Ventura County officials established a Family Assistance Center at 1375 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks and released an emergency hotline number that people can call: (805) 465-6650.
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