Late Wednesday night a man burst into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, shooting the cashier and security guard before going on a rampage that left 11 bar patrons and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ron Helus dead, and at least a dozen injured.
The gunman was dead inside the bar when law enforcement officers found him.
Hundreds of people were inside the bar, where each Wednesday night is College Country Night and students aged 18 and up are admitted (other nights of the week patrons had to be 21 or older). Students from nearby California Lutheran University, Pepperdine University, California State University-Channel Islands and Moorpark College were in attendance.
In an emotional early-morning press conference, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said one VCSO officer and two California Highway Patrol officers were on the scene within three minutes of the 911 call. Sgt. Helus heard gunfire and ran up to the building.
Upon going through front door, Sgt. Ron Helus was struck multiple times with gunfire. The Highway Patrol officers secured the perimeter until additional units arrived and rescued Sgt. Helus from the line of gun fire.
Helus, a 29-year veteran who was planning to retire in the next year, died at nearby Los Robles Medical Center. He is survived by his wife and son.
Student Taylor Whitler described the situation:
19-year-old, Taylor Whittler, was on the dance floor when a suspect opened fire inside Borderline Bar Nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California, shooting at least 11 people. She recounts her escape, getting hit in the head with a bar stool before making it through a backdoor exit. pic.twitter.com/f2OFR9U0IR
— ABC World News Now (@abcWNN) November 8, 2018
Taylor, whose father is retired military, described the gunman as tall and obviously an experienced shooter.
He changed [clips] in about six seconds…so he knew what he was doing….He had perfect form.
Matt Winnerstrom, a Wednesday night regular, was one of the people breaking a window with a barstool to help people escape.
Matt Wennerstrom, 20, of Newbury Park explains what it was like to be in Borderline Bar and Grill tonight when a gunman opened fire. pic.twitter.com/wm3ToIFh48
— Joe Curley (@vcsjoecurley) November 8, 2018
He described the shooter as tall, wearing all black, and using a semiautomatic pistol with approximately a 10-round magazine.
This hit way too close to home, in a number of ways. Borderline is four miles from my home; we heard the sirens and helicopters as they were dispatched to the area. And, a couple of my friends were among the first people to work as DJ’s and bartenders when Borderline first moved to Thousand Oaks from Malibu 25 years ago. Whenever my schedule allows, I take line dancing lessons there on Thursday night with a friend I grew up playing soccer with and her friends. I’ve celebrated two birthdays there (which happened to fall on Thursday nights):
Happier times at #Borderline – celebrating my birthday a couple of years ago. Each weeknight at Borderline has a different theme. There's a large, tight-knit community of regulars. Heart breaking for my friends who had kids there on college night. pic.twitter.com/uHqnQT8ADv
— Jennifer Van Laar (@jenvanlaar) November 8, 2018
Our community is different than many other in Southern California. Here you will find pickup trucks, American flags, and many gun owners. Naval Base Ventura County is approximately 20 miles from the bar; there are a number of retired military officers here. Though the population of Eastern Ventura County is around 300,000 people, we’re a tight-knit crew. Sheriff Dean perfectly reflected the views of so many here; he was emotional about the loss of his good friend, Sgt. Helus, during the press conference, but still refused to get political about the issue. Dean reasoned that the shooter (whom he refused to label as a ‘victim’ when giving a tally of those killed tonight) obviously had mental health issues and that we needed to do a better job of addressing mental health problems in our country.
At the time of this writing, we don’t know the name of the shooter or of any of the people who were killed inside the building. As those notifications are given, our community will be rocked to its core. Please pray that we will have strength to support those whose lives will be devastated by this loss.