Reports said the bar was packed with college students before the gunman forced his way in [AP]
A gunman killed at least 12 people late on Wednesday after opening fire on a bar packed with college students in southern California, according to the Ventura County sheriff’s office.
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Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said on Thursday that 10 other people were also wounded following the incident at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, about 50km west of Los Angeles.
“It’s a horrific scene in there. There is blood everywhere,” Dean said, describing the scene inside the bar.
Among the dead is as Sergeant Ron Helus, who was with the force for 29 years.
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“Ron was a hardworking, dedicated Sheriff’s sergeant. He was totally committed. He gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero. He went in to save lives, to save other people,” Dean said.
The gunman, who has not yet been identified, died inside the bar.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Captain Garo Kuredjian said the first reports of shots fired came around 11:20pm on Wednesday from the bar.
The bar’s website says it hosts “College Country Night” every Wednesday. Police said hundreds were inside when the shooting occurred.
There were reports that the gunman used smoke bombs before opening fire.
|People comfort each other as they stand near the scene in Thousand Oaks, California [Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo]|
Police told the Los Angeles Times that at least 30 shots were fired.
An unnamed source told reporters that a victim managed to escape through the window of the bar.
“He told us how he broke a couple of windows, and him and his friends helped push women out to save them first. His hand was cut up and he has blood on his face. His friend was shot in the shoulder,” the witness said.
The extent of the other victims’ injuries has not yet been released.
Law enforcement and emergency crews were still at the scene as of Thursday morning.
Long list of mass shootings
The shooting comes after a long list of mass shootings in the US.
Three of the deadliest mass shootings in US modern history have occured since November 2017.
In February, a gunman killed 17 people – majority of whom were students – at a high school in Florida. In November 2017, a man entered a church in rural Texas and killed 26 people. And in October 2017, a man shot hundreds of people attending a country music concert from the window of a hotel, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others.
The string of shootings has reignited the debate for stricter gun control, with young people taking the lead. Earlier this year, hundreds of students, teachers and their supporters marched in large cities in the US against gun violence, and called on politicians to take more action on gun control.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies