It was Wednesday night, Nov. 8, 2018, and it was College Country Night at the bar in Thousand Oaks, California. There was country music and line dancing and over 200 people in the bar, many wearing cowboy boots and flannel shirts, all packed into the former steakhouse that looks like a barn. There were pool tables, neon beer signs, and exposed brick walls. Those who were not old enough to drink wore black Xs on the back of their hands, marking their alcohol-free status.
It was 11:20 p.m. when the Borderline Bar and Grill erupted into carnage and mass confusion. Gunshots blasted. Men hollered. Women screamed. Someone repeatedly called out his girlfriend’s name.
Less than 15 minutes later, when the shooting had stopped, there were 13 people dead.
Among the fallen was a Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus who was a 29-year department veteran. He went into the bar to stop the violence. Also among the dead was the gunman, 28-year-old Ian David Long.
It is not clear if Long committed suicide with his .45 caliber Glock fitted with an extended magazine, or if he was shot to death by officers. The Los Angeles Times reports that one thing is clear: the sense of safety and refuge that was cherished by the residents of the Ventura County suburb is lost among the students of the region’s colleges and their parents.
First, the bouncer, Justin Meek, was shot several times in the back by a gunman dressed in black. The gunman targeted Borderline Bar and Grill on a night the pub was filled with college students.
Matthew Curry hear the shots that were fired. He said he heard four or five shots. The door to the Borderline Bar and Grill opened and the gunman walked into the brightly lit pub and walked toward the cash register.
The 20-year-old Moorpark College student said the next thing he saw was an arm, a gun, and a blast of orange.
“I remember the charcoal dust and the orange gun blast. I saw her body go down, and after that it was just mayhem.”
Not long after 19-year-old Erika Sigman escaped from the Borderline Bar and Grill, she stated: “This is a safe place. My parents let me go here. This is a trusted place. To know this happened to my safe place is a very, very scary thing. You just don’t expect it to happen in Thousand Oaks.”
Sigman is a student at Cal State Channel. She and her friends were celebrating a birthday when the shots flew through the busy pub. They all dropped to the floor and hid under bar stools when the saw a smoke bomb that was poised to go off. After the first rounds of gunfire stopped, Sigman ran out the front door, raced through the parking lot and hid behind cars with terrified strangers.
“We were scared he would come to the parking lot, because what then? Cops finally came, and one of the cops ran across the parking lot to tell us what to do. It was still an active shooter [situation].”
She was reunited with two of her friends. A third friend was carried off by “an amazing guy.” Sigman and her friends were regulars at Borderline. “[We were all] just pretty shaken up… I thought for a minute that I won’t make it out.”
When Long started firing into the crowded pub, Helus was on the phone talking with his wife Karen. Then, dozens of 911 calls came in. “I gotta go handle a call. I love you. Talk to you later.”
Helus and California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Barrett were the first to arrive on the scene. It was 11:22 p.m. At 11.:26 p.m. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said officers exchanged gunfire with the Long. Helus was repeatedly shot. Barrett dragged him out of the building while the shooting continued.
Borderline regular Tim Dominguez generally avoids College Night at the pub. However, his 26-year-old wanted to go to the pub, so the two played pool. They were just about to leave the pub. They were 10 feet from the door when the men heard the first shots fired.
Dominguez said the bouncer went down and then the cashier was hit and the gunman “just kept on shooting.” Long got to the bar and turned to the right.
“If he has taken a left, he would have shot my son and I, because that’s where we were. He was a quick shot. He was good at it. Like he knew what he was doing.”
Dominguez and his son ran out the door as Long moved through the pub. As they ran out, they told others to get down.
“When we got outside, we kept hearing the shots: Pop! Pop! Pop! I feel guilty that I left. That guilt could that I could have done something more.”
Nellie Wong, Chyanne Worrell, and three of their friends were at the pub to celebrate Wong’s 21st birthday. The party was a surprise for the Cal State Channel Islands student who was wearing a bright pink cowboy hat and a “Happy Birthday” sash.
The five friends lost each other is the chaos of the shooting. When the smoke bomb went off everyone ran for cover. Some of the pub’s patrons hid out in the bathrooms, texting friends and family members. Others hid under tables, raced for the attic, or smashed windows with barstools so they could jump to safety.
Wong hid behind tables and barstools at the back of the pub. As the room filled with smoke, she tried to hold her breath and squeezed her nose closed.
When Worrell was hiding under a table, she heard a voice telling her to run.
The 19-year-old said, “By the grace of God I was able to make it out.”
However, Wong stayed hidden behind a half wall in the back of the building until officers helped her out of the pub. Soon after, the five friends were reunited, but Worrell said the wait “felt like forever.”
Borderline Bar and Grill felt like a second home to Wong, Worrell, and many of their friends. The immediate group made it out safely, but their other friends were not accounted for. When they headed for home at 5:30 a.m. one friend was still unaccounted for.
His name was Cody Coffman. He had just turned 22 years old.
Coffman enjoyed line dancing. He would put on his cowboy boots and hit the dance floor at least once a week. He had gone to get a round of drinks before the shooter opened fire and no one had heard from him since.
After his father called his cell phone and looked for him, he reported him missing. That was at 4 a.m.
Four hours later, Coffman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Coffman’s father said, “I cannot believe that it’s happened to my family. I don’t know how to console or what to say to the other people who are going through the same thing as I am. I am so sorry for them. I am speechless and heartbroken.”
Adam Housley arrived at Los Robles Regional Medical Center at 3:30 a.m. searching for his niece. However, the hospital was on lockdown and they would not let him in the hospital.
The 18-year-old Pepperdine University freshman, Alaina, was at the pub with her friends. Her Apple Watch and iPhone showed her location as the Borderline Bar and Grill.
Housley said, “My gut is saying she’s inside the bar, dead. I’m hoping I’m wrong.”
Housley took to Twitter and asked people to pray for Alaina. Hi wife, TV personality Tamera Mowry-Housley, had been searching for Alaina since the early hours, when a friend of Alaina’s posted photos of the Pepperdine freshman asking for the public to help find her.
“Ashley this is her aunt Tamera Mowry Housley. Can you please DM me your information?”
However, Alaina’s friends were in the hospital being treated for injuries suffered from jumping through a broken window to escape from the shooter.
After spending hours searching, they confirmed the horrible news in a joint statement.
“Our hearts are broken. Alaina was an incredible young woman with so much life ahead of her and we are devastated that her life was cut short in this manner.”
By Jeanette Smith
Los Angeles Times: ‘It was just mayhem’: Gunman kills 12 inside Thousand Oaks bar
Image by Bazzy11 Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons License