THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - Multiple people were killed overnight inside a crowded Southern California country dance bar.
At least 13 people were killed when a suspect opened fire inside a bar filled with college students. Among the dead was a responding sheriff's deputy.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said the gunman is also dead inside the bar.
The shooting happened at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California about 40 miles west of Los Angeles.
Several people from inside the bar told TV stations that a tall man wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered first shot at a person working the door, then opened fire, seemingly at random, at the people inside.
People screamed and fled to all corners of the bar, while a few people threw barstools through the windows and helped dozens escape, witnesses said.
Nineteen-year-old Tayler Whitler says she was dancing and her friends were at a table by the door as the gunman opened fire. She said everyone yelled "Get down!" and it was silent for a couple seconds, then she heard "Get up, he's coming!" and people were trampling on each other to get out.
Nineteen-year-old Erika Sigman found herself hiding with a group of strangers, and they were holding her hands. She said "there is a lot of bad in this world, but there is also a lot of good and people will help."
Cole Knapp is a freshman at Moorpark College and was inside the Borderline Bar & Grill when the shooting began.
He says he tried to get as many people to cover as he could. He says he fled through an exit door to a closed patio where he told people "everybody get over the fence as quickly as you can," and followed them over.
Then he says he found a highway patrol officer nearby who just happened to pull someone over, and he screamed to him, "there's a shooter in there!"
Knapp says the officer "was kind of in disbelief," then saw he was serious. He says he has friends who haven't been accounted for.
Sheriff Dean choked back tears as he described the sheriff's sergeant killed in the mass shooting.
The sheriff said Sgt. Ron Helus undoubtedly saved lives by going in to confront the gunman. He said Helus was the first responder and was immediately hit with multiple gunshots.
He says a highway patrolman pulled out Helus and waited for a SWAT team as scores of other officers converged on the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at about 11:20 p.m.
By the time they entered the bar again the gunfire had stopped, and they found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman. He says Helus was later declared dead at a hospital.
Dean said Helus was his longtime friend and gym partner and planned to retire soon after 29 years with the force. He leaves a wife and son.
The sheriff said he told Helus' wife "he died a hero because he went in to save lives."
President Donald Trump is offering condolences after the mass shooting overnight.
Trump said on Twitter Thursday that he has been "fully briefed on the terrible shooting." He praised law enforcement, saying "Great bravery shown by police" and said "God bless all of the victims and families of the victims."
The name of the gunman has yet to be released.