CALIFORNIA, U.S. - In a shocking incident of mass shooting, a hooded gunman walked into a Southern California bar and restaurant late on Wednesday night and opened fire on a crowd of people inside, leaving 12 people dead.
Authorities in the Los Angeles suburb said that the shooting occurred at a Thousand Oaks nightclub called Borderline Bar and Grill at around 11.20 p.m. (local time) on Wednesday.
The hooded gunman, who was dressed in black opened fire on a crowd of people inside the
country dance bar and nightclub in Thousand Oaks, sending hundreds of people fleeing into the street and leaving 12 people, including a Ventura County sheriff’s sergeant dead.
Officials confirmed that the gunman was later found dead at the scene.
Addressing a news conference at the Borderline Bar and Grill in 99 Rolling Oaks Dr., Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters that the dead from the shooting on Wednesday night included 11 people inside the bar, including a sheriff's sergeant who was the first officer inside the door.
He said, "It's a horrific scene in there. There's blood everywhere."
The Sheriff added that Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman responded to several 911 calls and heard gunfire when they arrived at the spot and went inside.
Sheriff Dean said that Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, while the highway patrolman cleared the perimeter and pulled Helus out.
He reportedly waited as a SWAT team and several other officers arrived at the spot.
According to the Sheriff, Helus died at a hospital early on Thursday morning.
Helus was a 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s department and the Sheriff said, “Ron was a hardworking dedicated sheriff’s sergeant. He was totally committed, he gave his all and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero; he went in to save lives, to save other people."
Meanwhile, Sheriff Dean added that by the time the officers entered the bar again, the gunfire had stopped and 12 people, including the gunman were found dead inside.
Further, describing the gunman, some survivors and witnesses told reporters that the armed man was tall and was wearing all black with a hood over his head.
They said that his face was partly covered and that he first fired on a security guard at the door before opening fire at random at the people inside.
Witnesses also told reporters that people inside had to use barstools to break windows of the establishment to escape as the gunman was firing at the crowd.
Meanwhile, the Ventura County Sheriff said that apart from the 12 killed in the shooting, many others had suffered minor injuries, adding that some people who tried to flee the scene had suffered injuries too.
Ventura Sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian said that the number injured is likely to rise as many people rushed to hospitals in the area separately following the incident.
According to Sheriff Dean, at least ten other people who were not shot, rushed to hospitals after suffering injuring trying to escape the bloodbath.
The Sheriff said that so far, it is not clear how the gunman died and investigators are now working to establish the gunman's name and his motive.
He added, "It’s a horrific incident. It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it’s impossible to put any logic or sense to the senseless. This community in my 41 years had never experienced anything like this."
However, the Sheriff confirmed that there was no evidence linking the attack to terrorism.
Local authorities initially said that "hundreds" were inside the bar when the gunfire erupted and later confirmed that at least 200 people were inside for the college night.
The website of the establishment, which has a large dance hall, a stage and a pool room, states that country two-step lessons were being offered there on Wednesday.
Commenting on several reports that stated the gunman was armed with an Uzi, the Sheriff said that they believe the attacker used a handgun and added that investigators did not find any type of assault rifle in the bar.
He pointed out, “Right now as far as we know there was only one handgun, but that could certainly change as we do a more thorough search of the building."
He also noted that investigators were looking into initial reports that the gunman hurled a smoke bomb and said, "We have called in our bomb team to go through and a couple of bomb dogs here that are checking the area. But we haven’t found any other explosive device or confirmation there that there was a smoke device."
Wednesday's incident was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in nine months, after 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at a Parkland, Florida.
Further, the incident also comes less than two weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
On Thursday, the FBI said that its Joint Terrorism Task Force along with officials from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives were headed to probe the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, which is about 40 miles west of Los Angeles.