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Thousand Oaks community ‘on edge’ after deadly mass shooting

In Thousand Oaks, California, a bar’s “College Country Night” turned into carnage as a gunman opened fire on revelers. Frantic patrons used bar stools to smash windows and escape, but 12 people were killed before the shooter apparently turned the gun on himself. Police identified the gunman as a 28-year-old former Marine who had served in Afghanistan. Mary MacCarthy of Feature Story News reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thousand Oaks, California, is the latest American city to mourn a mass shooting.

    The killing of a dozen people last night was the deadliest incident since the Parkland High School massacre in February.

    Mary MacCarthy of Feature Story News begins our coverage.

  • Woman:

    We were at the bar, you know, having fun, dancing. And then all of a sudden, you hear, like, the bang, bang of the gunshots.

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    It was college country night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks. But a hooded gunman, dressed all in black, turned it into carnage.

  • Woman:

    So, then our friends got the barstools, and they started slamming them against the windows, so we could get out. That's how we were able to get out. They broke the window. They broke the window, and we were able to climb out.

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    The gunman killed a dozen people, before apparently killing himself. The victims included a sheriff's deputy who answered 911 calls for help. Sergeant Ron Helus had been set to retire from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

  • Geoff Dean:

    It's lost a hero. It's lost a great human being. It's part of the loss, again, of the 11 other victims that were in there, and it's all part of the suffering that we're all going to go through, as family members and parents and brothers and sisters on this tragic, senseless loss of life.

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    Officials identified the shooter as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a Marine Corps veteran decorated in Afghanistan. Sheriff Geoff Dean said Long used a Glock 21, a .45-caliber handgun that he obtained legally.

    It holds 10 rounds, but Long used a larger magazine that is illegal in California. Investigators swarmed his home today, near the Borderline Bar. Officers were called there in April, and reported Long might have post-traumatic stress disorder from military service, but a mental health professional decided he didn't need to be hospitalized.

    The shooting comes less than two weeks after the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh that killed 11, and added yet more fuel to the long-running debate on gun violence.

    California's Democratic lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, was elected governor just this week.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif.:

    This can't be normalized. This is just remarkable, just another day in America, but, tragically, now, in our state.

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    But as that broader debate proceeds, families waited today for news of loved ones who'd been at the bar, and Thousand Oaks Councilman Rob McCoy vowed the attack will not define his city.

  • Rob McCoy:

    We just have to pick up the pieces from this mess some idiot made, and we're going to do it. This is a community that stands together, and it's just a remarkable — I want everyone to know what a remarkable city Thousand Oaks is.

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    For now, the mourning begins. A procession carried the body of Sergeant Helus to the medical examiner's office today, where officers gathered in solidarity.

    All 12 of the victims have been identified and their next of kin notified. Police say a complete list of their names will be released in the coming hours — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mary, you have been talking to people in the community today. What are you hearing about the scene after this happened?

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    Well, I must say, Judy, this is very much a community that is still on edge after the horror of the late-night shooting, many hours throughout the morning waiting to see who had survived, who, sadly, who were among the deceased and who was in the hospital with injuries.

    I spoke to one mother who said that she lives very close to the Borderline Bar and Grill, which is just in this shopping mall behind us. She said that, on Wednesday nights, the community knows it's going to be a noisy night there, it's college night, so used to there being a lot of noise into the early hours of morning.

    It suddenly became eerily silent, she said, around 11:30 p.m. She knew something was wrong. She touched base with her own college-aged children, found out, fortunately, they were safe, but she said one of her daughters had a friend who she wasn't able to get in touch with at the point I had spoken to her.

    And in this small Thousand Oaks town, it seems that everybody either knows someone who goes to the bar or who might have been there that night, everyone deeply affected.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we know the sheriff's deputy was one of the first to go in. He, of course, was shot. He has died.

    He was supposed to retire very soon. What are you hearing about him?

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    That's right, Ventura County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the force here, he was among the first to die.

    We know that he went in, obviously as part of that emergency response to the tragedy when the 911 calls first came out. This morning, after confirmation that he died in the hospital, there was a procession here carrying his body out of the hospital in the blocks here behind us.

    I spoke to a sheriff's deputy right after that, and she was too overwhelmed to say much. She said that, as of last night, she was working alongside Ron Helus, and she couldn't even express how much he will be missed on the force and how much they admire him and are just shaken by his loss.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's just so horrific, the whole thing.

    Just finally, Mary, you said in your report that sheriff's officials said the gunman was a former Marine, may have had PTSD issues. Anything more known about that?

  • Mary MacCarthy:

    We know that it's 28-year-old Ian David Long, who did have some contact already with the sheriff's department here. At one point, he had been a victim of a battery situation. Also, police were called to his House back in April for a domestic disturbance. At that point, the records say that he was irate and irrational, but not disturbed enough to hospitalize. To what degree any of this may be tied to the fact that he is a veteran of war, at this point, that would be pure speculation. We don't know much. Those are the details that will be coming out in the coming hours and days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mary MacCarthy reporting for us from Thousand Oaks, California, Mary, such a terrible story. Thank you.

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