Thousand Oaks shooting witnesses describe scene during attack on California bar
"It was a normal Wednesday," one witness said.
But normal turned into horror when a gunman, identified by authorities as Ian David Long, opened fire at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Including the shooter, thirteen people died and several more were injured.
In a bar with a dance floor spreading over 2,500 square feet, not everybody saw the shooter enter the building, filled with hundreds of people.
When the shooter opened fire, some witnesses thought they heard fireworks. But others saw the gunman, including a young man in his 20s who said the gunman walked in and started shooting.
"It was all blink of the eye ..." said the man, who declined to give his name. "Guy with a semi-automatic handgun just walked in the front and started popping rounds off at people. It wasn't really random. He was shooting people up close."
Matt Wennerstron, 20, of neighboring Newburry Park, said he saw the gunman open fire on employees at the front desk. That's when he pulled others around me down underneath a pool table.
Authorities later confirmed Long shot a security guard outside, then other security guards and employees inside the bar.
As shots rang out, several people inside the bar hid inside bathrooms and even crawl spaces in the building's attics. In Wennerstron's case, as he outlines in the video, he took the opportunity to escape with others by throwing bar stools through a window as the gunman reloaded his weapon.
Photos from the scene showed people carrying victims, some with blood on their shirts or bodies, including an image pulled from video of a group of young men carrying a person to get help.
As emergency personnel responded, medical staff began providing treatment to those who were injured and witnesses began giving statements to law enforcement.
For those who had fled from the bar, they stood on sidewalks, wrapped in blankets embracing one another.
Phone calls and text messages to and from loved ones were being made too. Several people at the bar were students from nearby schools like California Lutheran University, Pepperdine, and California State University Channel Islands.
Parents of students were desperate to know if their children and friends were alright. Many headed to a reunification center to connect with their families, hoping for good news. But heartbreaking news awaited others.
Jason Coffman said his son Cody, 22, was among those killed at the bar. He spoke with Cody, a former Camarillo High School football player, just before he went out for the night.
“I talked to him last night before he headed out the door,” Jason Coffman said. “The first thing I said to him was, ‘Don’t drink and drive.’ The last thing I said was, ‘Son I love you.’ That was the last thing I said.”
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Nate Chute is a producer with the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at @nchute.