13 dead, including police officer, after shooting in California country bar

Thirteen people are dead, including a deputy sheriff and the gunman, after a shooter opened fire in a crowded country dance bar in Thousands Oaks, Calif. on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of people were packed inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Southern California, which was holding a weekly “college night,” when gunfire broke out around 11:20 p.m. People fled in terror, some even used bar stools to break windows and escape, police said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman were responding to several 911 calls when they arrived at the bar when the shooting started, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. The officers heard gunfire and went inside.

Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Dean said. The highway patrolman pulled Helus out and waited as a SWAT team and more police arrived. Helus died in the hospital early Thursday.

When officers entered the bar again the gunfire had stopped, and they found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman. It was not clear whether he killed himself or was killed by officers, Dean said.

Around 10 other people were shot and injured, police said. No other information about the victims is known at this time.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said at a media conference early Thursday in the parking lot of the Borderline Bar & Grill. “There’s blood everywhere.”

An FBI agent talks to a potential witness as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Several people from inside the bar told media that a tall man wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered first shot at a person working the door, then opened fire, seemingly at random, at the people inside.

Witnesses also said he threw a smoke grenade into the bar before opening fire with a handgun.

Tayler Whitler, 19, said she was on the dance floor with her friends nearby when she saw the gunman shooting and heard screams to “get down.”

“It was really, really really shocking,” Whitler told KABC-TV as she stood with her father in the Borderline parking lot. “It looked like he knew what he was doing.”

Another witness 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.

People comfort each other as they stand near the scene Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had been briefed about the deadly mass shooting.

“I have been fully briefed on the terrible shooting in California. Law Enforcement and First Responders, together with the FBI, are on scene,” he wrote on Twitter.

Helus was a 29-year police veteran with a wife and son who was looking to retire in the next year.

“He was hard-working, he was totally committed, he gave his all and, tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said as he choked back tears. “He gave his life to save other people.”

Helus was a 29-year police veteran with a wife and son who was looking to retire in the next year.

Borderline Bar & Grill was holding a college night and offering country two-step lessons.

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See y’all tonight for Borderline’s College Night! ✨ Free line dance lessons with Kristal Lynn at 9:30 & 10:30! Yeehaw! @borderlinebar ********************************************** #BLineorBsquare #linedancing #dancelessons #countrygirl #cowboy #yeehaw #cowgirlup #beer #college #collegenight #cowboyup #countrydance #countrygirlatheart #BorderlineBar #humpday #beerpong #worklife #ilovemyjob #linedancelessons #bestcountrybar #beerpong #djs #dance #twostep #wednesdays #Countrynight #linedancelessons #CaliforniaCountry #thousandoaks #venturacounty

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The bar, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University. It’s also close to several other universities including California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, Pepperdine University in Malibu and Moorpark College in Moorpark.

Shootings of any kind are very rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 64 kilometres west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.

The incident came less than two weeks after a gunman with an automatic rifle fatally shot 11 people during Sabbath services at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

A woman who fled the Borderline Bar and Grill where a gunman injured 11 people is hugged by relatives in Thousand Oaks.

— With files from the Associated Press

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