Hero saves as many as 30 people during Thousand Oaks shooting
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people were attending 'College Country Night' at the Borderline Bar & Grill a country dance hall and live music venue in Thousand Oaks, California. At around 11:20 p.m., a lone gunman, armed with a .45 caliber Glock, shot the security guard outside, then entered the nightclub and opened fire on the crowd. He killed 12 people, including Sheriff's Sergeant Ron Helus. Authorities said the suspect, Ian David Long, 28, was killed inside the venue.
The mass shooting might have been even more deadly, if not for the actions of one man, who helped rescue as many as 30 people. Matt Wennerstrom told ABC7 that he visits Borderline Bar & Grill every week, and instantly recognized the sound of gunfire. While the shooting was taking place, he smashed a window with a barstool, and helped people escape to safety.
"We probably pushed 30 or 35 people through that window," Wennerstrom told ABC7, with a bloodstain visible on the sleeve of his shirt. "All I did was grab as many people as I could and pull them underneath the table until I heard a break in the shots, and then we got people out of there, as much as we could." One woman described the experience to ABC7 in tears.
The Thousand Oaks bar shooting came less than two weeks after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in which 11 people were killed, nine months after the Parkland school shooting, in which 17 students and teachers were gunned down, one year after the Sutherland Springs church shooting, in which 26 people were massacred, and one year and one month after the Las Vegas concert shooting, in which 58 people were murdered. The patrons at Borderline may have been able to think quickly due to their familiarity with mass shooting events.
“They ran out of back doors, they broke windows, they went through windows, they hid up in the attic, they hid in the bathroom," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told The Washington Post. "Unfortunately, our young people, people at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen. They think about that. Fortunately, it probably saved a lot of lives that they fled the scene so rapidly.”
Ventura County Sheriff's Sergeant Ron Helus also acted heroically, preventing the suspect from taking even more lives. When the gunfire erupted, he was among the first responders to the scene. As he attempted to confront and subdue the shooter, he was mortally wounded. The 29 year veteran, who planned to retire this year, died of his injuries early Thursday morning. The Los Angeles Times reports that before heading to the scene, he called his wife and said, "Hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call."
One man who escaped the Thousand Oaks shooting made a heartbreaking apology to the victims. "I should have stayed till he changed his clip, but I was worried about my boy," he said, while sobbing. "I should have stayed. I apologize to anybody who got hurt, or passed, I’m sorry." When the interviewer tried to reassure him, he protested, "But they’re all young. I’m 56; I’ve lived life — they’re all young. This shouldn’t have happened to them."
This shouldn't have happened to anyone, but sadly, these horrific mass shootings remain a part of American life.