Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, who is leading the response to the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is heartbroken that this will be his last major effort before he retires on Friday.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Dean was asked how it feels to be faced with investigating the massacre that left 13 people dead, including a sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman, and sent hundreds fleeing from a popular country music bar on a “college night.”
“It can’t be any worse,” he replied.
Dean identified the killer as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old Marine veteran who lived in the neighboring town of Newbury Park and had multiple minor run-ins with law enforcement. Police had been called to his home in April when he was acting angry and irrational. He was also involved in traffic accidents and was attacked at a different bar in Thousand Oaks.
The county sheriff said Long used a Glock 21, a .45-caliber firearm designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber. But Dean said Long had an extended magazine, and it wasn’t immediately clear how many rounds he had. He said the gun had been purchased legally, but the ATF is looking into when and where it was purchased.
Dean praised the FBI and other law enforcement officers aiding local authorities. He said that officers from sheriff’s department will be on site for at least the next 15 to 20 hours, but he will no longer be at the helm by the end of the workday Friday.
“I’m no longer the sheriff by tomorrow at midnight, but I will certainly be a part of the family,” he said.
That sheriff’s department is mourning Dean’s colleague and friend, Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed after he ran into the Borderline Bar & Grill to confront the gunman. Dean got choked up while talking about Helus, who was only a few years from retirement himself, and he commended the fallen officer’s character and valor.
“It’s lost a hero. It’s lost a great human being. It’s part of the loss of the 11 other victims that are in there. It’s all part of the suffering that we’re all going to go through as family members and parents and brothers and sisters on this tragic, senseless loss of life.”
Authorities said they have secured the house where Long lived and plan to search it after securing a warrant from a judge. It’s possible that authorities will find more information that could help establish a motive for the shooting, Dean said.
When asked if he had a word of advice at this time, Dean thought back to what he had told some Jewish members of his community after the anti-Semitic mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27.
“I went and spoke at a Jewish synagogue after the tragedy on the East Coast, and when I talked to the parishioners there and the rabbi I said, ‘We’ve got to do something about the hate, and we’ve got to do something to just spread the love and reach out and help people, and be patient and understand them because this will touch so many lives around our community.”
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