California bar shooting leaves 12 dead, including sheriff’s deputy

Twelve people were killed in an overnight shooting at a popular bar in a Los Angeles suburb, authorities said.

The victims included a sheriff's sergeant, officials said.

Police in the Los Angeles suburb also said the suspected shooter, who has not been identified, is dead. It is not yet known if he took his own life, they added.

The gunman, wearing black, threw smoke bombs and opened fire inside the crowded bar, a favorite of college students, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We have no idea if there is a terrorism link or not," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

An undetermined number of people were also injured, Dean said.

He called the mass shooting a "horrific incident."

“This community in my 41 years had never experienced anything like this," he added.

A Ventura County sheriff’s deputy is among those killed in the shooting. Sgt. Ron Helus had been on the force for 29 years and was one of the first officers on the scene in response to 911 calls of shots fired. He was looking to retire in the "next year or so," Dean told reporters.

The sergeant died in hospital, Dean added.

"Ron was a hardworking dedicated sheriff's sergeant. He was totally committed, he gave his all and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero; he went into save lives, to save other people," Dean said, his voice breaking with emotion.

In addition to those who died, other injured or wounded patrons were brought to hospitals or went to them on their own.

Sheriff's Capt. Garo Kuredjian said deputies could hear gunfire when they arrived.

There were hundreds of people in the bar when the attack began, police said. Numerous law enforcement agencies were on-scene, including the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. National Guard members were assisting, as well.

Patrons were seen being led out of the bar by deputies.