Thousand Oaks gunman had a history of angry outbursts

Ian David Long was a gifted sprinter whose fast-twitch muscles propelled him around the Newbury Park High School track. But one day during his senior year, each time he passed the girls’ head coach, he hurled invective in her face.

And each time, Dominique Colell yelled back. “Another mile,” the young coach demanded, penalizing Long for each curse word.

“He owed me 13 miles in one day,” she said.

Later that year, Colell said, Long assaulted her.

The coach found a cellphone and was searching through the contacts in hopes of identifying its owner when Long lunged. He screamed at her to hand over the phone and grabbed her stomach and buttocks, she said.

“On my track field, students were going to be held to a standard,” Colell said. “Everybody went with it but him. I never recall [another] student cussing me or groping me.”

Long’s defiance frightened Colell so much that she prayed he would stay away from the girls on the team and was relieved to see him graduate and join the Marines.

She thought little about him until she turned on the news this week to hear authorities say the student athlete turned machine-gunner had shown up at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., with a handgun and killed 12 people before turning the gun on himself.

“They said his name, and I was like, ‘What! Oh my God, it had to be him,’ ” she said. “It was total shock and not shock at all.”

Relatives had questioned whether Long had returned from a tour in Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. But some who knew him in high school say his aggressive behavior predated his years in the military.

Evelynn Cluke, who oversaw the relay teams at Newbury Park High School and witnessed Long assaulting Colell, recalled troubling signs in “a good kid with an explosive temper.”

He would get into fights if he was defied, she said, yelling at her if she told him he would not run a particular leg in a relay.

“I had to tell him to go sit down, go do something else or go home,” she recalled.

Cluke believes Long had specific problems with women.

“He would sit in a circle of guys and talk about so-and-so chick. . . . ‘She doesn’t know what she’s missing,’ ” Cluke recalled.

Her father, then the school’s sprint coach, would sometimes alert her to Long acting out.

“Ian’s at it again,” she remembered her father telling her. “Keep an eye on him at practice.”

One day, Cluke recalled, the students were allowed to park next to the track. Long, she said, pulled up in his truck and several boys gathered around.

One of the younger boys, she said, came over and told her that Long had brought a gun to school. Cluke said she went to find her father to investigate, but Long took off before they could establish whether it was true.

“There was nothing we could do,” Cluke said. “None of us adults had seen it.” Long, she said, was admonished for missing practice.

His outbursts shocked those who witnessed them. Although Long achieved his ambition of joining the Marines, serving from 2008 until 2013, he ended up earning their opprobrium.

Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, posted condolences to the victims of the shooting on Twitter, calling the attack a “tragic & senseless act of violence” and took the unusual step of referring to Long as an “ex-Marine” — a phrase often considered an insult among veterans, who believe their fellowship continues after they leave active duty.

“That ex-Marine’s despicable actions run counter to what the vast majority of veterans are rightfully known for: serving w/ honor then making positive contributions to society,” Neller wrote.

During a New Year’s Eve party in 2011, Long was so drunk and angry that he broke a fellow Marine’s nose, according to Todd Stratton, a high school friend who was also a survivor of the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill. He described Long as a “hothead.”

The other Marine was trying to calm Long down, Stratton said, when Long took a swing at him.

“He was just pissed off and drunk and was trying to get in a fight,” said Stratton. “No one knew why he was getting so upset.”

“I can’t believe he killed my friends and he was my friend too,” said Stratton who lost four close friends in the shooting.

Stratton said he thought that Long “had started mellowing out recently. He didn’t seem as angry or aggressive.”

Why Long targeted the bar remains a “real mystery” to Stratton, who also said Long was “a big guy, 6-foot-2, over 200 pounds — there was no way anyone was gonna stop him.”

The violence in Thousand Oaks — where the victims included an 18-year-old who had just started college, a sheriff’s deputy who rushed in to confront the shooter and a Navy veteran who survived last year’s mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas — echoed previous mass shootings throughout the country.

Authorities had encountered Long just months before the attack, drawing parallels to massacres in a Parkland, Fla., high school; a Sutherland Springs, Tex., church; and an Orlando nightclub.

In April, police were called to Long’s home and found him “somewhat irate, acting a little irrationally,” so they called for a crisis intervention team and a mental-health specialist, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters. That team “met with him, talked to him and cleared him,” and did not feel they could take him into custody under what’s known as a 5150 order, Dean said.

Under a 5150 order, a person who is deemed to be “a danger to others, or to himself or herself” can be taken into custody for up to 72 hours — and that would have barred Long from legally owning or possessing firearms under California law.

The gun he used in the attack was purchased legally, authorities said.

“Under federal law and in most states, having a temporary hold of that nature does not lead to a prohibition of gun rights,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “So California is more the exception than the rule by having these short-term mental-health holds, 5150 holds, lead to firearm prohibitions.”

An FBI examination of 63 active shooters between 2000 and 2013 found that most of them obtained their firearms legally. These people had typically shown multiple “concerning behaviors” noticed by people around them before they often attacked places familiar to them, the FBI review found.

Investigators say Long appears to have posted messages on social media during the rampage in the bar.

“While he was inside the bar, and in between volleys of shots, apparently, based on the time stamps, he was posting on Instagram,” said Sgt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

Buschow said he did not have details about what was said in the messages, which Instagram — owned by Facebook — took down from public view but saved for authorities.

Buschow said the investigation would look at “every social media” avenue to try to determine motive and the shooter’s mind-set. Mass shootings are often followed by a search for answers about what could have motivated the bloodshed. In some cases, answers remain out of reach; more than a year after a gunman in Las Vegas killed 58 people, his motive remains a mystery.

Long appears to have set lofty ambitions for himself. In a post on an online network for special operations forces, a person named “Ian” (who served in the same places and at the same times as Long) told the community he wanted to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. Years earlier in high school, he told friends that he had plans to become a professional baseball player.

A game he played in May 2007, his junior year, ended those dreams. At that point, friends say Long was a somewhat withdrawn but hard-working young and athletic high school student.

“Back when I knew him, he was a pretty normal guy,” said Cameron Forbes, another baseball player who currently lives in Orange County. “I remember him being funny and having a good sense of humor.”

The Newbury Park High School Panthers had made it to the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs where they faced strong adversaries in the Hart High School Indians.

On that mid-May day, future Major League player Trevor Bauer had a memorable start for Hart. Mike Montgomery, now with the Chicago Cubs, replaced Bauer on the mound for the final inning. With the score at 2-1, Long picked up his bat to pinch-hit for the Panthers.

He struck out.

“It was a big game loss,” said Scott Drootin, one of the coaches, who recalled a dejected Long, hanging his head in the team dugout.

It was the last out of the game — and the last game Long played for Newbury Park. After he graduated, Long didn’t return to cheer on the varsity team or joke around with his former coaches.

“He was one of the kids that never came back,” Drootin said, who this week began looking back on the personal baseball page Long had assembled.

Long listed his favorite movie as the thriller about the hijacked 9/11 plane, “United 93.” His goal, he wrote, was to “win CIF in Angel Stadium.”

And in response to a question about what he planned to do “After baseball,” Long entered a one-word answer:

“Death,” he wrote.

Dan Lamothe, Julie Tate, Rob Kuznia and Dave Sheinin contributed to this report.