THOUSAND OAKS, California — At least 12 people were killed Wednesday night, including a sheriff’s deputy, when a gunman opened fire inside a Southern California bar filled with college students, authorities said.
Authorities were first alerted to the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at 11:20 p.m. The first deputy to arrive on the scene, Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year-veteran of law enforcement, was shot and killed upon entering the building.
Eleven others inside the bar were killed, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. The suspect, who has not been identified, was also found dead.
Between 10 and 15 additional people were injured in the shooting and transported to hospitals, he said.
“There were multiple other victims of different levels of injury at the scene who were taken to local hospitals,” Dean told reporters.
Helus, who had been due to retire next year, died in a hospital early Thursday, Dean said.
President Trump responded to the news in a tweet Thursday saying that he’d been “fully briefed on the terrible shooting in California.” He also commended the “great bravery” of the police and sent his sympathies to the victims and families.
The bar, which claims to have the “biggest dance floor in town,” was holding its weekly country music–themed night for students 18 and over on Wednesday, according to its website. Students from nearby California Lutheran University, Pepperdine University, and California State University Channel Islands were in attendance.
Pepperdine University confirmed that several of their students were at the bar at the time of the shooting and that the school is working with the authorities to determine if any of its students are among the injured. In a statement sent to BuzzFeed News the school said it was “deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events that unfolded last night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks.”
Cole Knapp, 19, a second-year student at Moorpark College who lives in Newbury Park, told BuzzFeed News that he was about 30 feet from the bar’s front desk when the shooting began.
Knapp said he saw a man dressed in a black hoodie and beanie enter and walk up to the front desk and begin firing at an employee behind it.
“Next thing I knew he had a gun pointed at the lady at the front and he pulled the trigger three or four times,” he said. “He continued shooting more people.”
Knapp said he heard about 30 shots in total, and fled with others to an outdoor patio, hopping over a fence into the parking lot. He spotted a police officer who had pulled a driver over nearby.
“I just screamed at him, ‘There’s a shooter! There’s a shooter!’ and he went flying in there,” Knapp said.
Dean said police did not confirm if the shooting was terror-related.
“This information will come out as soon as we’re able to determine who the suspect was and what motive he might have had for this horrific event,” he said.
An eyewitness told KABC-TV that people inside the bar were young.
“They were just young people, like 18, 19, 20, just having a great time, then this maniac came in and started shooting people for no reason at all. These people have never hurt anybody in their lives. They’re kids, they’re just kids, I’m sorry,” he said.
“It was constant, until he changed clips, then there was a pause… Then he kept on going… He kept on popping ’em off and I waited for my son, he didn’t follow me like I asked him to, so I was running back to get him… I just got him out of there. She would have never forgiven me if he would have got hurt or died.”
Multiple witnesses described the weapon used in the massacre as a semiautomatic handgun. Footage showed people running across the street to escape the chaos.
πHe just kept firing. I ran out the front door. I hear chairs being thrown out the window, people were trying to get out the window,” another witness told ABC7.
“The gunman went behind the cash register. There [were] probably 12 shots before I got out the front door.”
Inside the bar, people used barstools to break windows and escape the rampage. Others hid in the attic.
One man who said he attends the country music event every week told ABC7 that he helped around 30 people escape through a window. He said the gunman unloaded a magazine of bullets, before reloading and recommencing shooting.
Jason Coffman, 41, of Camarillo, told BuzzFeed News that he believed his 22-year-old son Cody was “one of the 11” killed in the shooting.
Coffman said he and his wife woke up to pounding on their front door just after 1 a.m. It was Cody’s friends.
“They made it,” Coffman said. “He didn’t.”
Coffman said he knew his son was going to the Borderline tonight. It’s a place Cody and his friends frequent.
“He loves this place,” Coffman said, adding that he also frequented the Thousand Oaks bar when he was his son’s age.
The father of three said he still hadn’t heard from his son by about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“My son is smart enough to get to the nearest phone to call,” Coffman said. “I haven’t got it yet.”
Thousand Oaks, the second-largest city in Ventura County, is located about 40 miles northwest of Downtown Los Angeles.
The city has been ranked one of the safest in the US, and has a very low violent crime rate.
“It’s an horrific incident,” Dean said. “It’s part of the horrors that are happening everywhere. It’s impossible to put sense to the senseless.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.