A gunman opened fire during a student night at a country music bar in the city of Thousand Oaks,California, killing 12 people and injuring several before turning the gun on himself.
The shooter stormed the Borderline Bar and Grill, wearing a black trenchcoat and armed with a pistol equipped with an extended magazine and smoke grenades, and began targeting people as young as 18.
Ron Helus – a Ventura County sheriff sergeant – was among those killed in the ‘pre-meditated’ attack.
The ‘hardworking’ officer, who was due to retire this year, had 29 years of experience in the force and leaves behind a wife and son.
An additional ’10 to 15′ victims were injured during the mass shooting, including a doorman, a young female cashier and college students.
The perpetrator, dressed in all-black, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and a mask covering the bottom part of his face, walked up to the entrance at 11.20pm and shot the doorman before making his way into the venue.
He then opened fire on a young female cashier before throwing smoke grenades onto the dancefloor and letting off rounds into the crowd.
First responders from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol arrived at 11.23pm and got into a gunfight with the suspect, during which a deputy sheriff was shot and later died at Los Robles Hospital from his injuries.
An injured man who appears to have been shot is rushed to safety at the Borderline Bar and Grill
Relieved family members embrace their loved ones after 12 people were shot at the bar in Thousand Oaks, near California
More than 200 people, many of which were students (pictured) as young as 18, were in the bar when the gunman opened fire
Witnesses (pictured sharing a blanket after escaping the tragedy) had to use chairs to smash the windows of the bar to escape
An FBI officer stands guard outside of the bar and debriefs distressed witnesses, some of who lost their shoes amidst the chaotic scenes
Teylor Whittler is hugged by her father after she fled the venue. She said the shooter was dressed in all-black and was wearing a mask
A young reveler is in a state of shock after witnesses a gunman fire at least 30 rounds at a crowd of country music fans
A young girl phones her loved ones to let them know she’s safe, as her friend comforts and shares a blanket with her
People comfort each other as they stand near the scene where a gunman threw smoke bombs and fired a pistol with extended magazines
Survivors embrace after being told the coast was clear when the gunman turned the gun on himself
Ron Helus (pictured) – a Ventura County sheriff sergeant – was among the deceased. The ‘hardworking’ officer had 29 years of experience in the force and leaves behind a wife and son
Several minutes later a SWAT team arrived and found 11 victims dead inside. The suspect was also found lifeless after apparently turning the gun on himself.
Officials said the attack was planned and reports of use of smoke grenades were ‘credible’.
There were ‘at least 200 people’ inside the bar when the gunman opened fire, police said, and the number of casualties is ‘very likely’ to go up.
One witness told ABC7: ‘I was at the front door talking to my stepdad. I heard these big pops.
A heavily-armed Ventura County officer stands guard outside the country music festival wearing a helmet and body armopur, equipped with a pistol and an assault rifle
The officer directs members of the public away from the Borderline Bar and Grill while an investigation is carried out
An emotional Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean (pictured) told reporters his ‘good friend’ Ron Helus was killed in the attack
He revealed that Helus and a Highway Patrol officer were the first responders to enter the building at 11.23pm. He said Helus was ‘struck multiple times with gunfire’ trying to save innocent lives
A sheriff deputy speaks to a potential witness as they stand near the scene (left) while officers inspect vehicles in the car park searching for the perpetrator’s vehicle
Plain-clothed law enforcement officers guard the road leading to the Borderline Bar and Grill where 12 people were killed
Family and friends got out of bed and rushed to the scene still in their pyjamas to make sure their loved ones were alive
‘There were three or four and I hit the ground. The security guard was dead and the man had a handgun.
‘He threw in smoke bombs and he kept firing. People threw chairs out of the windows to try to get away.
‘The gunman had glasses and a black jacket. He had a big hand gun.’
Another witness said: ‘This maniac came in. Threw in smoke to confuse people and opened fire on the dancefloor. He’s taken many young lives’.
A lifeless body, thought to be one of the victims, is seen outside of the bar and restaurant following the shooting
Police respond after a gunman opened fire at the country music venue in the city of Thousand Oaks, California
The shooter stormed in the venue wearing a black trench coat armed with high capacity sub machine guns, witnesses said
First responders arrive on the scene of the mass shooting at around 11.30pm after receiving ‘shots fired’ 911 calls from witnesses
A Ventura County Sheriff’s Office official said approximately 30 shots had been fired inside the building.
Witnesses reported a horrifying scene as gunfire echoed through the club and those inside ran for cover, in some cases breaking windows with chairs and other pieces of furniture to get out of the building.
People were hiding from the shooter in bathrooms and attic spaces, while others who managed to escape fled to nearby gas stations for medical help.
Local hospitals have been inundated with victims who’ve transported themselves to emergency rooms with injuries seeking medical help.
One witness, who was at the bar with his step-son, described the sequence of events. He said: ‘He shot the front doorman, who was just a young man.
‘Then he shot the cashier, just a young girl. Then he started moving to the right. He wasn’t looking at us.
‘Then he went into the office, where all the cash and stuff is. He didn’t say anything at all. He just started shooting.’
A man thought to be inside the venue at the time of the shooting is pictured fleeing the bar
The shirtless man was helped along by officers from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
It’s thought that a man opened fire at the bar with a semi-automatic gun at about 11.20pm and was still ‘a threat’ inside the bar an hour later.
A SWAT team were pictured surrounding the venue in their formations, while the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and bomb squad were also called to the scene.
Borderline is a country music bar that hosts live music events.
Tonight’s event was aimed at college students, according to the bar’s website and Instagram page.
K-9 units have been scouring the car park looking for the shooter’s vehicle.