On Thursday, authorities in Thousand Oaks, California, identified Marine veteran Ian David Long, 28, as the gunman who killed 12 people and injured more than a dozen others at a popular bar frequented by college students earlier this week. Long was found dead inside Borderline Bar & Grille from what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot from a legally purchased .45-caliber Glock, which he’d used with an extended magazine during the mass shooting.
While a motive for the shooting remains unclear, CNN reports that authorities have identified a Facebook post they believe was made by Long around the time of the attack.
“I hope people call me insane… [laughing emojis]… wouldn’t that just be a big ball of irony?” the post reads, according to CNN. “Yeah.. I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’.. or ‘keep you in my thoughts’… every time… and wonder why these keep happening…”
The attack in Thousand Oaks was the 307th mass shooting in the United States in 2018.
Long’s friends told CNN that he was a regular at Borderline, a Western-themed bar and restaurant known for hosting salsa, swing and country line-dancing. The night of the shooting, the bar was hosting college country night, and many of the victims were students. Some were also survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, which happened during a country music festival.
“There was a community there,” Long’s friend, who requested anonymity, told CNN. “He was a part of that community. The whole bar is line dancing. People do choreographed dances for hours, cowboy boots and hats in the middle of the suburbs of Thousand Oaks.”
The friends interviewed by CNN were shocked to learn what Long had done, describing him as a “sweet,” “good guy” who was “always happy.”
“He wasn’t unhinged, he wasn’t violent,” recalled a friend who was last in contact with Long two years ago. “He was a sweet guy who served his country and was using his GI Bill to go to college and get a degree to help more people. Out of our group of friends I thought the highest of him.”
Dominique Colell, Long’s high school track coach, had a very different reaction when she heard his name on the news.
“When they said his name my jaw just dropped,” Colell told KCAL. “He attacked me. He attacked his high school track coach.”
Colell alleged that Long assaulted her during practice his senior year at Newbury Park High School. Someone had found a phone, Colell said, and she was trying to figure out who it belonged to.
“Ian came up and started screaming at me that was his phone,” said Colell. “He just started grabbing me. He groped my stomach. He groped my butt. I pushed him off me and said after that — ‘you’re off the team.’ ”
Other coaches and teachers encouraged Colell to accept Long’s apology and not to file charges so his enrollment in the Marines after graduation wouldn’t be jeopardized, a decision she now regrets. She said the incident demonstrates that Long had issues before he joined the military.
“This kid was mentally disturbed in high school,” Colell said.
According to the Associated Press, Long joined the Marines immediately after graduating from high school and served from August 2008 to March 2013, including seven months in Afghanistan between 2010-2011. He was married in 2009 while stationed in Hawaii, but split from his wife in 2011, and officially divorced in 2013, citing irreconcilable differences. After being honorably discharged in 2013, Long spent three years at California State University, Northridge, but didn’t graduate, and attended College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita for two semesters as well.
Long lived with his mother in Thousand Oaks in recent years, according to the AP, and neighbors alleged the two would get into loud, aggressive fights. Police were called to the home in April after neighbors called police to report yelling and crashing sounds coming from the house. According to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, when deputies responded, they found Long was “somewhat irate and acting irrationally,” but a mental health specialist concluded he couldn’t be involuntarily committed for psychiatric observation. Dean also indicated investigators were looking into whether Long may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Obviously he had something going on in his head that would cause him to do something like this,” Dean said.
Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson Curt Cashour told USA Today that Long was “not enrolled in VA health care at any time,” and mental health experts warned against blaming PTSD or mental illness for the shooting. Barbara Olasov Rothbaum, a professor and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine, told USA Today that while PTSD can provoke “irritability and aggression,” it’s not an explanation for murder.
“I get upset when people get scared of veterans with PTSD because they think they are going to be violent, and they’re not,” Rothbaum told ˆ. “There is already so much stigma involved in PTSD in general — and certainly in veterans and military service members — that anything else that adds to the stigma would do them a disservice.”
Thomas Burke, a pastor who served with Long in the same US Marine Corps regiment, shared a similar, nuanced perspective with CNN.
“PTSD doesn’t create homicidal ideation,” Burke said. “We train a generation to be as violent as possible, then we expect them to come home and be OK. It’s not mental illness. It’s that we’re doing something to a generation, and we’re not responding to the needs they have.”