At least 12 people were killed after a gunman opened fire late Wednesday in a Southern California bar that was hosting a college night for country music fans, PEOPLE confirms.
Shots were first reported about 11:20 p.m. at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, west of Los Angeles, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters.
A Ventura sheriff’s sergeant, identified as Ron Helus, was one of the first on the scene about three minutes later and was shot as he entered the bar and died at the hospital, Dean said.
Eleven other slain victims were found inside.
Dean said the unnamed shooter also died in the assault, though it was not immediately clear how or if he was being counted among the total dead.
Approximately 10 others were shot, the Associated Press reports. Dean said the surviving victims inside the bar had “different levels of injury” and were transported to area hospitals.
Dean said they believe the gunman acted alone. Other details about the shooting were not immediately available.
“It’s a horrific scene in there,” he said, according to CNN. “There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that, and I didn’t want to get that close and disturb the scene and possibly disturb the investigation.”
A gunman in all-black sprung his assault on a bar full of hundreds of people, firing indiscriminately and sowing further chaos with smoke grenades, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere,” Dean told reporters.
“I think it’s impossible to put any logic or sense to the senseless,” he continued. “This community in my 41 years had never experienced anything like this.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown extended his own condolences in a statement: “Our hearts ache today for the victims of this heinous act and our deepest condolences are with the Thousand Oaks community and those who lost friends and loved ones. We are grateful for law enforcement and others, including Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who took heroic action to save lives last night.”
The bar was hosting a “College Country Night” on Wednesday, according to its website. CNN described Borderline as a popular spot for local college students.
“[It’s] just a place you go to hang out with friends, just have fun as young adults,” witness Holden Harrah told the network.
And then, on Wednesday: violence erupted.
“A gentleman, who walked in through the front door, shot the girl that was right behind the counter,” Harrah said.
Nineteen-year-old Erika Sigman told the Times that the Borderline Bar was one of her hangouts — a familiarity now warped by the bloodshed.
“I’m a Thousand Oaks resident,” she said. “This is a safe place. My parents let me go here. This is a trusted place. … To know that this happened in my safe place is a very, very scary thing.”
This is a developing news story. Please return for updates.