Hatred of college students may have spurred Borderline attack, report finds

Kathleen Wilson Cheri Carlson
Ventura County Star
Twelve people, including a Ventura County sheriff's sergeant, died in a 2018 mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.

An investigation into the 2018 mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill concluded the gunman, a combat Marine veteran, was motivated by "a strong disdain for civilians," particularly college students, whom he had said should be "wiped off the map," according to a long-awaited sheriff's office report released Wednesday.

Ian David Long likely targeted the Thousand Oaks bar on Nov. 7, 2018, knowing it was themed "Country College Night" and would likely be filled with college students, Ventura County sheriff's detectives concluded in their 434-page report.

"Though we cannot say with absolute certainty that this was the suspect's motive, this is the working theory that has been established," said the report issued by the sheriff's major crimes bureau.

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Long attacked the bar shortly before midnight with a Glock 45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, firing 61 rounds into the venue filled with hundreds of people, killing 11 patrons and striking Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus multiple times before the gunman fatally shot himself in the head.

The round that killed Helus came from California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Barrett’s rifle in an incident of friendly fire as the two were trying to save lives, prosecutors have determined.

While Lonwas attending CSU Northridge, a group of students learned of his military background and some made disrespectful comments to him, the report said.  Some expressed the opinion that anyone who joined the military deserved to be shot and killed, according to friends and associates of Long interviewed by detectives.

"The suspect began to hate individuals who felt this way," and said he felt that they were "entitled, liberal civilians" who had no understanding of what he had experienced as a machine gunner while deployed in Afghanistan, according to the report.

"He began referring to them as 'college-civilians,' and said they should be 'wiped off the map,' " according to one person interviewed by detectives.

"It is believed these types of negative encounters only triggered his anger toward civilians and individuals who, in his mind, simply had no grasp or appreciation for what war veterans have done for the United States," the report said. 

The owner of the bar told investigators that he did not know the gunman nor was he aware of any previous incidents at the bar involving Long. But detectives found that the 28-year-old Newbury Park man had visited the bar five times over a period of less than a year before the attack. The frequency accelerated in the three weeks before he struck, with visits on Oct. 16, 22, 31 and Nov. 1  — six days before the shooting.

Witnesses reported seeing an individual, whom they believed to be Long, dressed in combat camouflage fatigues on Halloween night at the bar. He was spotted looking inside the front office, where he would later mount his attack.

The man believed to be Long reportedly asked other customers if off-duty police officers frequented the bar and if they commonly were armed.

Many details in the report are redacted, including the names of those interviewed.

A friend of Long's related that he was “very angry” while he was attending CSUN.

“He hated college-age civilians. He hated them...and he would just say awful things about them, you know? And that's why it doesn’t surprise me...what he did,” the friend said.

But interviews with Long's mother indicated that pressure was building long before the rampage. Although she knew the suspect was troubled, she said she never suspected he was capable of such violence, according to the report.

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.