A second high school coach of the gunman who killed 12 people at a Southern California bar recalled him on Sunday as unstable and intimidating and said that repeated complaints to school administrators about his behaviour failed to prompt any discipline.
Evie Cluke coached Ian David Long on Newbury Park High School’s track team in 2007 and 2008. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said Long was a “ticking time bomb” who constantly lost his temper, threw tantrums and would scream at coaches when he didn’t like their decisions. She said she once witnessed him assault a fellow coach.
That coach, Dominique Colell, said Long grabbed her rear and midsection after she refused to return a cellphone. Another time, he used his hand to mimic shooting her, Colell said, adding that she feared for herself whenever she was around him.
Cluke said she also witnessed Long pretending to shoot Colell.
“When Dominique turned around and saw that, she turned pale as a ghost and it was very, very scary,” Cluke said. “Just sadistic. … He was out of control. He would scream and cuss and his face would turn bright red and people would actually back away from him.”
Long, a 28-year-old former Marine machine-gunner who served in Afghanistan opened fire during college night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night. He killed 11 people and a police officer who responded, and then fatally shot himself, police said.
Authorities have not determined a motive.
Colell kicked Long off the track team immediately after he assaulted her, but she and Cluke said the boy’s track coach urged her to reconsider because that could compromise Long’s goal of joining the Marines. The head track coach, Cluke said, reversed Colell’s decision to throw Long off the team and told her she didn’t have that authority, while the now-retired principal brushed it aside as a one-time incident.
Long rejoined the team after apologizing in front of several coaches and administrators.
Cluke said she, Colell and her father, also a track coach at the school at the time, repeatedly reported Long’s behavioural problems, to no avail.
“You need to do something about this kid. He needs some help.” Cluke said she told administrators. “And they’re like, ‘Well, he’s got a good heart he’ll be fine. Just talk to him.'”
Emails to various administrators at the high school were not immediately answered Sunday. Attempts to get a comment by phone and in person from officials at the school and its district was unsuccessful Friday when both were closed because of a massive and deadly wildfire in the area.
Cluke recalled a time when she and her father sat down with Long for a talk and asked him why he wanted to join the military. His answer, she said, “is burned in my soul.”
“He said he wanted to be in the Marines because he wanted to go fight in the war for our country and he wanted to kill for our country,” she said. “When you hear somebody say they want to be in the military because they want to kill people in the name of our country, that’s chilling. It chilled me right down to my bones.”
She said it’s time for school administrators across the country to take behavioural problems seriously.
“It’s not the military or video games or music that causes this,” she said. “It’s the inaction of people in authority.”
She said that if other coaches and school administrators had acted following complaints about Long, “he could’ve gotten help and 12 innocent people wouldn’t be dead now.”
“The warning signs were there,” she said.