Thirteen people, including a sheriff’s sergeant described as a hero and the gunman himself, have been killed after a mass shooting in a busy country and western bar in southern California.
The shooter, identified by authorities as 28-year-old US Marines veteran Ian David Long, turned the gun on himself after carrying out the horrific killing spree, during which he deployed a smoke device and used a .45-calibre handgun.
A further 21 people have been released from hospital after being treated for their injuries.
Long opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles, at about 11.20pm local time on Wednesday night.
Police said that the bar was packed with young people attending a weekly college line-dancing night.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said: “It’s absolutely horrific. If you can imagine young people out on a Wednesday night, having a good time, at a bar they’ve probably been to many times.
“Thousand Oaks, one of the safest cities in the United States, and something like this happens. We’re trying to make sense out of the senseless, it’s absolutely tragic.”
Mr Dean confirmed that Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus, who was responding to the incident, was shot after he entered the building. He died at a hospital early on Thursday.
Sergeant Helus, who was set to retire next year, was described as a hero after trying to take down the killer.
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Tayler Whitler, 19, said she was inside the bar when a man walked in with his face partly covered by something resembling a ski mask, opened fire on a person working on the door, then began to shoot people at random.
She told KABC-TV: “It was really, really, really shocking. It looked like he knew what he was doing.”
Nick Steinwender, student union president at nearby California Lutheran University, rushed to the scene when he heard about a shooting at the bar where he knew friends and fellow students were.
“It was chaos, people jumping out of windows, people hopping over gates to get out,” Mr Steinwender told KABC.
He said he heard from people inside that they were hiding in toilets and the attic of the bar.
The US president Donald Trump offered condolences after the shooting, saying on Twitter that he has been “fully briefed on the terrible shooting”.
He praised law enforcement, saying “Great bravery shown by police” and said “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims”.