At least 12 people were killed and at least 10 others injured when a gunman burst into a packed Southern California bar, tossing smoke grenades and firing dozens of rounds, witnesses and authorities said.
The lone suspect was found dead inside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, police said. Authorities are working to determine who he is and what his motive may have been.
Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran who was about to retire, was among the dozen killed overnight, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
Helus was one of the first on the scene and was struck multiple times when he went through the front door, the sheriff’s office said.
Police responded to the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles, just before midnight local time.
Hundreds were inside the bar at the time.
“The gunman was throwing smoke grenades all over the place,” witness John Hedge told ABC Los Angeles station KABC. “I saw him point to the back of the cash register and he just kept firing. I ran out the front door.”
“I hear chairs being thrown out the window — people were trying to get out of the window,” Hedge said. “I don’t know how I didn’t get shot.”
Initial reports from officers said about 30 shots were fired.
The Borderline Bar and Grill is a country-themed bar known for its large dance floor and lives music events, according to its website.
“They were very, very loud gunshots,” college student Erika Sigman told KABC. “There were people in the middle dancing… you hear that and you just know.”
“We got down because I heard people screaming, ‘Everyone gets down!” she said. “We heard people say, ‘run!’ and we booked it as fast as we could.”
“I love this place — it’s our usual hangout. My parents trust me going here,” Sigman told KABC. “It’s very hard to comprehend. I’ve lived here all my life.”
The slain sergeant, survived by his wife and son, was looking to retire next year, the sheriff’s office said.