THOUSAND OAKS (AP) — The number of victims in a shooting at a Southern California country music bar this month could have been much higher based on the amount of ammunition the gunman carried, investigators said Tuesday.
Authorities said they were no closer to figuring out why Ian David Long killed 12 people on Nov. 7 at the Borderline Bar and Grill but revealed that he left behind more than 150 bullets when he fatally shot himself.
There is no evidence Long was radicalized or was targeting an ex-girlfriend at the bar in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks, investigators said at the first news conference since the week of the shooting. Officials previously said they were looking into the possibility he was targeting her.
Long, 28, a former machine gunner and Afghanistan war veteran, posted on social media during a break in the gunfire that he wondered if people would think he was insane.
He deployed smoke grenades to create confusion and unleashed more than 50 rounds from a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said. He didn’t use five of seven 30-round high-capacity magazines.
Such magazines are illegal to buy and possess in California but can easily be purchased in neighboring states. Long’s gun also had a flashlight with a laser sight.
After shooting bar employees and patrons, Long took a tactical position to ambush responding officers as more than 100 people ran for exits and jumped through broken windows to escape.
“As you can imagine, this was a terrifying experience for everyone who was there,” Ayub said. “Confusion and chaos can only begin to adequately describe the situation.”
Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were there within minutes of 911 calls, and exchanged gunshots with the suspect. Helus, who was shot several times, was among those killed. None of the officers’ bullets hit Long.
Ayub also revealed that Long had a folding knife with him, and a coroner’s official said one victim had been stabbed in the neck, in addition to having several gunshot wounds.
Many of the victims were shot several times and at close range. Only one gunshot victim survived.
The mother of a man who was killed, Telemachus Orfanos, came to the news conference to put a face on the victims and represent her son as more than a statistic. Susan Schmidt-Orfanos said she was putting her energy into working for gun control measures.
Her son had survived the mass shooting last year in Las Vegas but did not return from a night out closer to home.
“There’s no place to put my anger,” Schmidt-Orfanos said. “We need to end gun violence so that no other families grieve and are shattered as we are shattered. That’s where my rage is going to go.”
Investigators have interviewed hundreds of witnesses and gathered bullet casings, surveillance video and other evidence from the scene of the shooting, as well as seized items from Long’s home, including digital media, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
Most of the evidence taken by the FBI is being analyzed at its lab in Quantico, Virginia, Delacourt said.
Detectives hope items from the house help them learn why Long carried out the attack and that evidence from the bar better explains how he carried it out.
“There’s a process of both interviewing the people and getting the information investigators obtain and consolidating those to develop a timeline, and if we can discover what the motivation was for this attack,” Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian said. “They’ve been doing that pretty much around the clock since it happened.”
Their work persisted in spite of a wildfire that erupted just hours after the shooting, forcing FBI investigators and sheriff’s detectives to evacuate.
“They didn’t miss a beat,” said Kuredjian, who also had to flee.
Neighbors have said Long made them uncomfortable and even called 911 on him in April. Responding deputies found Long behaving angrily and irrationally, but a mental health specialist who met with him didn’t feel he needed to be hospitalized.
Two of Long’s former high school track coaches described his behavior during his teenage years as aggressive and disturbing.
They told The Associated Press that they repeatedly complained about Long to school administrators, insisted that he needed help, and even kicked him off the team after he assaulted one of them. They say another coach reinstated Long after arguing that removing him could jeopardize his goal of joining the military.