More complex picture emerges of Borderline gunman, reports show

No brain abnormalities found by doctors

Kathleen Wilson
Ventura County Star

A more complex picture of the gunman who committed a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill two years ago has emerged from newly released reports, but no solid answers as to why he did it.  

The latest information comes from the autopsy and death investigation reports released Tuesday by the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office. Other details were shared two weeks ago by the District Attorney's Office in an analysis of two officers' discharge of firearms as they tried to save lives at the Thousand Oaks bar on the night of Nov. 7, 2018.

The DA's report described shooter Ian David Long's bumpy childhood, mental health issues and family tensions before he unloaded his handgun at the bar. Thirteen people were killed, including Long, 28, who shot himself in the head.

The sign outside the Borderline Bar and Grill.

PTSD confirmed

Although some of the information on Long's background has already been reported by news outlets, the DA's report provided new details. Included were confirmation of the former Marine's treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder along with brief information on the death of Long's father.

This is what prosecutors had to say:

Long's parents separated when he was 2 or 3 and later divorced, and his father died when the boy was in fifth grade.

He lived with his mother and they moved frequently due to her work, settling in Newbury Park by the time he was mid-way through high school. He attended Newbury Park High School for his junior and senior years and graduated in June 2008, then left for the Marine Corps. 

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His military service included a deployment to Afghanistan for a little over six months ending in June 2011. About two years later, he was honorably discharged as a corporal.

After re-entering civilian life, Long stayed with roommates in various locations and attended CSU Northridge. He was hurt in a motorcycle accident in August 2015 that resulted in a collapsed lung and cracked his helmet, but there was no evidence of brain injury or head trauma, according to his mother.

Life 'unravels'

She believed Long’s life began to “unravel” after the accident, prosecutors said. She also thought her son had injured his shoulder while in the Marines, according to the narrative in the report.

During 2015 and 2016, he received physical and mental health treatment from Kaiser Permanente and was diagnosed with PTSD, adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, combat and military operational stress reaction and chronic pain, the DA's report says.

The FBI said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has no record of Long receiving medical or mental health related treatment, according to the report. 

Long came to the attention of authorities about six months before the shooting, when Ventura County sheriff's deputies responded to a call from a neighbor. Long had punched holes so forcefully into the walls of the Newbury Park house he shared with his mother that they were visible from the outside of the house, officials said. 

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Long told the deputies he had injured his left shoulder in a motorcycle accident, which kept him from getting a job, working out and re-enlisting in the military. A mental health crisis team evaluated Long at the time, but determined that he did not meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. By the time of the shooting, there was ongoing conflict between him and his mother about him moving out of the house, the DA's report says.

Note found

On Nov. 1, six days before the shooting, prosecutors said he texted his mother with this message: “My plan fell through yesterday. I need another week. By next Saturday morning I will be out of here forever.” 

Long left a handwritten note at his home that read simply, “NO Funeral.” He also sent two social media posts during the Borderline incident, but prosecutors did not release their content. 

The Star has been seeking the report on Long's autopsy since shortly after the shootings to see if it would shed any light on the attack. Ventura County officials have withheld the document pending the completion of the district attorney's report, which is now done.

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The autopsy report describes Long's body and organs in detail as well as reporting the path of his self-inflicted gunshot wound. But it shows no clear reasons why he attacked the bar.  

No evidence of any major diseases were found by Dr. Othon J. Mena, the assistant chief medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. Nor did a toxicology report show use of major drugs at the time of the killings. The only substances that were detected were tobacco, caffeine and marijuana.

Brain issues checked

No evidence of brain disease was found either by Mena or the Boston University School of Medicine, which was consulted on the case. With the family's permission, the medical examiner's office submitted Long's brain to the consultant to determine if there were any diagnostic abnormalities. None was found other than the injuries sustained when he shot himself in the head after unloading his handgun at the victims. 

He was wearing a dirty black jacket, gray T-shirt with a blue bandana knotted around his neck and blue denim jeans when his body was examined at the morgue two days after the shooting, the autopsy report shows. The jacket had been cut in the back as well as along the sleeves, while the shirt had also been cut in the back. He had a black glove on his right hand and was wearing heavy-duty high-top brown suede boots. 

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Mix of tattoos

His body was marked with a host of tattoos from conventional to morbid, including multiple skulls. 

Tattooed on his thighs were handguns, while his chest was marked with an an eagle’s head, a portion of a U.S. flag and a scroll bearing the words, “FREEDOM ISN’T FREE BUT IT’S WORTH FIGHTING FOR." 

In the area of his left arm was a tattoo that included a city scape with the words "City of Angels" and helmeted face bearing the words  “ONLY THE DEAD HAVE SEEN THE END OF WAR," along with deformed skulls and roses.

His back bore symbols of the state of California including an ocean sunset and palm trees along with a goblin-like figurehead and more skulls. A paragraph spoke of love, according to the report. He also had a tattoo on the inside of his lower lip.

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His upper and lower extremities showed no needle track marks, edema, deformities or amputations, according to the report on the man who stood 6 feet and weighed 232 pounds.

People with advanced mental illness have been known to ignore their hygiene, but there was no sign of that on Long's body at the time of his death. His teeth were in good condition, his nails trimmed and clean, and his hair and beard were cut relatively short. A death investigator who responded to the scene reported that Long's previous medical issues included a psychiatric disorder, cognition issues, a broken right finger and a repaired tear of his rotator cuff. 

Records withheld

The Star has also sought the reports on the autopsies of the 11 civilian victims and sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus from the county to learn whether they would shed any light on the shooting and the response by law enforcement.

But a judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday that prohibits Ventura County from disclosing the reports on the civilian victims pending a hearing Jan. 19. Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh said he will consider the granting of a preliminary injunction at the hearing. If granted, an injunction generally keeps records confidential until trial. 

Walsh issued the temporary order after an attorney representing families of 10 of the civilian victims asked the court to prevent county officials from releasing the autopsy reports on their relatives. 

Attorney Jacob Flesher argued that the families' privacy rights were greater than the public interest in having the records disclosed.

Those families have sued the county to prevent the local government from releasing a variety of records in the county's possession, including body camera footage, autopsy reports and 911 tapes. 

Walsh's order did not apply to the autopsy report for Long or the one for Helus, who responded to the scene as a law enforcement officer.

The autopsy report for Helus reported the injuries he sustained in detail. He suffered six gunshot wounds and minor wounds of the lower extremities, according to the report. No substances were detected in his bloodstream, according to the toxicology analysis.

Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0271.