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California shooter identified as 28-year-old Marine veteran

People comfort each other as they sit 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
Long was a Marine Corps veteran and was known to the authorities prior to Wednesday

The gunman who killed 12 people in a crowded California country music bar has been identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a former Marine, the local sheriff said Thursday.

The suspect, who was armed with a .45-caliber handgun, was found deceased at the Borderline Bar and Grill, the scene of the shooting in the city of Thousand Oaks northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

"We believe he shot himself," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.

The gunmen was found dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when officers made entry into the bar.

"We have had several contacts with Mr. Long over the years, minor events, a traffic collision," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said, adding that deputies were called to his house for a disturbance in April this year and "felt he might be suffering from PTSD."

Long was "somewhat irate. Acting a little irrationally," he said. However, mental health specialists who were called in "talked to him, and cleared him."

Dean said authorities so far had no indication of a motive, or of any connection to terrorism. He said the victims were apparently targeted at random. 

Department of Defense records show Ian David Long was on active duty with the US Marine Corps from August 2008 to March 2013.AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Shooting rampage

The gunman -- who apparently killed himself -- stepped into the Borderline Bar and Grill around 11:20 pm Wednesday and coolly began shooting, witnesses said, unleashing pandemonium as terrified patrons scrambled to escape.

"He had perfect form," bar patron Teylor Whittler told Fox News. "He looked like he knew what he was doing, he had practiced."

Dean said Long was believed to have been armed with a single handgun when he launched Wednesday's attack.

"It appears he walked up to the scene. He shot the security guard that was standing outside. He stepped inside," Dean said.

"It appears that he turned to the right and shot several of the other security and employees there, and then began opening fire inside the nightclub."

 'Everyone dove to the floor' -                 

Among those killed in the assault was a three-decade veteran of the sheriff's department, 54-year-old Ron Helus, who was married and had a grown son. 

"He went in there to save people and made the ultimate sacrifice," Dean said.

The other 11 victims have yet to be identified by the authorities. Besides the dead, around a dozen other people were injured.

Matt Wennerstron, a 20-year-old college student who regularly attended events at the bar, said the shooter fired a short-barreled pistol that apparently had a 10-15 round magazine.AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

"Then, when (he) started to reload, that's when we got people out of there and I didn't look back," Wennerstron said.

He said he and others smashed their way out of the bar onto a balcony and then jumped down to safety. "One bar stool went straight through a window," he told reporters.

Jasmin Alexander, who was part of a group of around 15 friends at the bar, said there was chaos and confusion inside when shots first rang out.

"It was a normal Wednesday. We were just at the bar, having fun, dancing," she told reporters after escaping.

"All of a sudden we heard the 'bang, bang' of the gunshots and it just started going crazy and people were pushing.

"We thought it was a joke, we didn't take it seriously at first... because it sounded like firecrackers and everyone just dropped down to the floor."

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

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had "been fully briefed on the terrible shooting," the latest chapter in America's epidemic of gun violence that came just 10 days after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Last year, a country music festival 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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