By Jim Holt & Michele Lutes
Signal Staff Writers
The mass shooting Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill that left a dozen dead in Thousand Oaks resonates today throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, where many patrons of the popular country music venue live, and are now mourning the friends shot and killed.
A handful of SCV residents were at the bar when the shooting broke out. Two of the survivors shared their story with The Signal Thursday.
About 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls of shots being fired inside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, said Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.
Among the first to arrive at the bar were a Ventura County sergeant and an officer with the California Highway Patrol officer who was in the area.
“The sheriff’s deputy and a highway patrol officer made entry into the Borderline because they heard shots being fired and felt there may be additional victims inside,” Dean told reporters in a street interview video-recorded late Wednesday night.
The sergeant, later identified as Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran one year from retirement, entered the bar first and was “struck multiple times with gunfire,” Dean said, calling him a hero.
The CHP officer pulled the wounded sergeant “out of the line of gunfire,” he said, then secured the perimeter until additional units arrived.
The responding deputies found 11 victims shot and killed inside the bar, Dean said. “The suspect, whom we believe was the only suspect, was dead inside.”
News of the shooting has since revealed a close and constant relationship which SCV residents have maintained with Borderline and with Thousand Oaks.
The man authorities have identified as the shooter — 28-year-old former Marine Ian David Long — was once a part-time student at College of the Canyons.
“He attended part-time in spring 2013 and spring 2015,” COC spokesman Eric Harnish said Thursday.
At least three women, all SCV residents, and four other local residents, were in the club Wednesday night when the shooting broke out. One of them was 20-year-old COC student Katelyn Dolder, who drove there with Sam Jaimes, a 22-year-old graduate of The Master’s University.
After they arrived, they became separated, each emerging later with separate stories of survival.
“I know there are many people from SCV that go, even outside of my own friend group. It was going to be a fun night,” Dolder said Thursday. “When I got there (about 9:30 p.m.) everyone was having a good time.”
When the shooting began, Dolder said she had become separated from her friends.
“When it first started happening, I was just frozen and then it finally clicked in what was happening,” she said.
In the confusion, Dolder was pushed to the floor, she said, and remained on the floor while the shooting was happening. Whoever pushed her, she said, saved her life.
Other people ended up on the floor as well, she said.
“I just got piled on, so I was one of the last people to exit,” she said, noting she could see the “exit” sign but struggled with the decision of either running to it or staying down. She stayed where she was, she said.
“Law enforcement responded immediately and I was very thankful for that,” she said.
Once out of the building, Dolder began worrying about her friends. Some, she learned on Twitter, were not harmed.
“All the people I knew from SCV made it out OK,” Dolder said, including her friend Sam Jaimes.
Jaimes has been going to Borderline every Wednesday since May, he said.
“I was on the dance floor, line dancing, and I hear gunshots,” he said. “I thought it was fireworks.
“But, I look up and I see this guy with a black ski mask, or black bandana, something on his face, and he was shooting people point blank. He shot one person at a time.
“I told my friend, ‘We have to get out of here right now,’” he said.
There were two back exits in the club, Jaimes said. “I took the one on the right, she (Dolder) took the one on the left. The people in the middle were cornered. They were breaking windows.
“I ran through the parking lot and up a hill.”
A vigil in the SCV scheduled for late Thursday afternoon was quickly arranged by those immediately affected by the news.
Casey Lynn Lopez said Thursday: “I had a few friends there last night that I got in contact with, that luckily were all safe, but I also know there are many that I haven’t heard from.”
“Even myself and my close friends are affected, to be honest,” she said. “Going to Borderline is like joining a second family.
“Everyone becomes friends and the atmosphere is very comfortable. I think anyone who was or wasn’t there, but goes there frequently, was affected by last night’s tragedy,” Lopez said.
So profound is the connection to the SCV that Lopez immediately set up a GoFundMe account to honor the victims and support Borderline’s recovery.
Loyal Borderline patron Will Davison, a former photographer with The Signal, said he was on his way to the bar but turned around at the last minute because he was tired. Then, he said, his “phone just lit up” with friends calling him.
“Three of my close friends were killed,” Davison said Thursday.
When he heard of the killing, he drove to the club to meet with survivors, “comfort them and talk to them,” he said.
When he arrived at the club, he was told tales of heroic staffers who reportedly helped others survive — the guy who pushed young women to the floor, another guy who smashed a window to create an escape route.
Davison, who saw friends gunned down in Las Vegas last year, remains focused, he said, on the those who lost their lives.
Anyone wanting to help honor the victims and support Borderline is invited to visit the fundraising website created by Casey Lopez.
“I started a GoFundMe page in order to honor the victims and help the bar,” she said.
“I would like the money to go towards restoring the building due to all the damages that have happened in order to have the victims’ spirits live on through a place we all loved.”
The link is: