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Gunman kills 12 in California bar packed with students

People comfort each other as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. where a gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded with hundreds of people on "college night."
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The slain deputy was a 29-year veteran of the force and had been looking to retire in the 'next year or so'

Twelve people, including a sheriff's deputy, were killed Wednesday after a gunman opened fire in a crowded country music bar in southern California before being shot dead by police.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters that twelve victims, including the officer who had been called to the scene, were killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.

The venue in the quiet, upscale suburb had been hosting an event for college students, with possibly several hundred young people in attendance, Captain Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff's office said earlier.

It was the second mass shooting in America in less than two weeks after eleven were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Dean said the gunman, who was yet to be identified, was found dead "from a gunshot wound" when authorities entered. It was not immediately known whether the suspect was killed in a shootout with police or by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

More than a dozen other people were injured in the shooting and most victims were believed to be in the 21-26 age range, the sheriff said. "It's a horrific scene in there. There is blood everywhere,"

The slain deputy, Sergeant Ron Helus, was a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County sheriff's office.

He was one of the first officers on the scene responding to 911 calls of shots fired. Helus had been hoping to retire in "the next year or so," Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters.

"He gave his all and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero; he went into save lives, to save other people," the sheriff said, his voice breaking with emotion.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Authorities gave no indication of a possible motive for the attack and said police were still investigating whether explosives had been used.

"We have no idea if there is a terrorism link to this or not. As you know, these are ongoing investigations and that information will come out as soon as we are able to determine exactly who the suspect was and what motive he might have had for this horrific event."

"Nothing has led me to believe or the FBI there is a terrorism link here. We certainly will look at that option."

The venue in the quiet, upscale Thousand Oaks suburb had been hosting an event for college students, with possibly several hundred young people in attendance, Captain Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff's office said earlier.

Witnesses said that a man, who wore a black trench coat and glasses, fired several shots from a handgun before tossing smoke bombs into the crowded bar.

"He shot a lot, at least 30 times. I could still hear gunshots after everyone left," the Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed witness as saying.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

TV footage showed SWAT teams surrounding the bar, with distraught revelers milling around and using their cell phones as lights from police cars flashed.

Holden Harrah, a young man who saw the incident, cried as he told CNN that a place where he goes every week to have fun with friends had been a scene of carnage.

"A gentleman walked in the front door and shot the girl that was behind the counter. I don't know if she is alive," he said.

Thousand Oaks, a quiet, upscale residential suburb of Los Angeles, is the second-largest city in Ventura County, California

It has consistently been ranked by the FBI as one of the safest cities in America, ranking the fourth-safest among cities with a population greater than 100,000 by the FBI's 2013 Uniform Crime Reports.

- 'He shot a lot' -               

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he had "been fully briefed on the terrible shooting".

"Law Enforcement and First Responders, together with the FBI, are on scene. 13 people, at this time, have been reported dead. Likewise, the shooter is dead, along with the first police officer to enter the bar," he wrote.

It was the latest chapter in America's epidemic of gun violence and came only 10 days after a gunman killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Last year a country music festival called Route 91 in Las Vegas was the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern US history. A gunman shooting from the 32nd floor of a hotel and casino with high power weapons killed 58 people.


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