Investigation Continues Into Motive Behind California Bar Shooting
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
In Southern California, the city of Thousand Oaks was hit with back-to-back crises. As they mourn the loss of 13 people, including the gunman, in a mass shooting, the city is also dealing with a fire that's now forced 75 percent of the residents to evacuate. NPR's Leila Fadel is in Thousand Oaks. Leila, thanks so much for being with us.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thank you.
SIMON: These back-to-back tragedies - how do people hold up?
FADEL: You know, it's been really difficult. The same center where families had been waiting to hear about whether their loved ones lived or died at the Borderline Bar and Grill - where the gunman walked in and started shooting - is now an evacuation center for people fleeing the fires. And in a city where pretty much everyone knew someone or knew someone who knew someone that was in that bar, it's really a lot to take.
Yesterday, the mayor of Thousand Oaks, Andrew Fox, talked about that while asking people to please heed warnings and leave if they're asked to leave. Take a listen.
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ANDREW FOX: Just 48 hours ago, our city experienced a tragedy that had national implications with the mass shooting and the loss of life of 13 individuals. And here we are, just a few hours later, now talking about another crisis right here in Thousand Oaks.
FADEL: And now students at Pepperdine University, which had students at the bar on Wednesday night, are sheltering on campus as this massive fire burns closer to them.
SIMON: When shootings occur, and, alas, they have occurred, statistically, almost every day this year, people search for answers - why somebody, anybody, would do this. Any more information about the gunman?
FADEL: Well, right now, there's just a lot of speculation about the why. The shooter was 28 and a Marine veteran and lives in a neighborhood right nearby. And my colleague Martin Kaste spoke to people who knew him in high school who described him as an intimidating person who harassed people, one woman saying she was shocked by the news but not really surprised that he'd do something like this.
The sheriff here in Ventura County speculated about his mental health. Deputies had responded to his home in the spring and found him irate, a little irrational. But ultimately, he was evaluated and deemed OK - not a danger to himself, not a danger to others.
Law enforcement also confirmed that there is a social media post referencing the shooting that they believe is from the gunman. As a matter of policy, though, Facebook removes, quote, "mass murderer" Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. So we haven't seen the original post.
So really, the long answer, Scott, is, no. We still don't know why.
SIMON: Please tell us about the victims - the people who were killed.
FADEL: You know, we've learned a lot about them from their families and their friends as they grieved them these days that have passed.
Cody Coffman is a 22-year-old who people say tried to protect many in the bar from the shooters, only to be killed by - killed himself.
Telemachus Orfanos, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting. He was 27. People called him Tel. And he loved line dancing, which is why he was at the bar that night. It was country night, so they had line dancing for people 18 and over.
There was a college freshman, a coffee shop owner, a Marine veteran, employees of the Borderline Bar and Grill and Sergeant Ron Helus from the sheriff's department. He was the first to respond, walked into the bar to stop the shooter and was killed himself. He's being remembered as a hero who surely saved lives by moving in so quickly.
SIMON: And now that sheriff's office has to deal with fires, too, don't they?
FADEL: Yeah. So the Ventura County Sheriff's Department is dealing with a lot - mourning the loss of one of their own, investigating this terrible crime. And now, they've spent the last day and today evacuating people from their homes in the county and trying to make sure people are safe.
SIMON: NPR's Leila Fadel in Southern California, thanks so much for being with us.
FADEL: Thank you.
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