NEWBURY PARK, Calif. – Sunny Southern California weather has a way of making all neighborhoods look idyllic.
But in one such Los Angeles-area home, a ranch-style house in a pleasant, leafy enclave, lurked a profound darkness. Inside 804 Fowler Ave. lived a troubled man whose rages created booming noises and summoned local police.
Marine Corps veteran Ian David Long, 28, the man accused of killing 12 at a nearby country bar late Wednesday before shooting himself, was a former machine gunner and decorated combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan who, authorities said, had an episode of erratic behavior last spring that suggested post-traumatic stress disorder.
Long’s various interactions with police over the years pointed to a man who needed professional help. None came.
Neighbor Richard Berge said everyone on the block was aware when the police came to the Long home last year after an incident.
“Police were here, and they finally get (Long) to come out of the house,” Berge told USA TODAY Thursday as FBI agents shuttled in and out of the home Long shared with his mother.
Berge described Long’s mother as “a very nice lady” – he got to know her after offering to care for one of the family’s combative German shepherds – who was frustrated her son wasn’t seeking help for his condition.
Although Berge had never been inside the Long house, he said a neighbor had reported seeing walls that were “full of holes,” adding that the neighbor got the impression that Long had kicked the walls in.
“She was worried because he wouldn’t get help,“ Berge said. “I asked her, ‘Can’t he just get help.’ She said, ‘He can’t get help.’”
Tim Tanner, who lives on the corner three houses away, said Long kept to himself.
“I’ve seen him a couple of times,” he said. Long was distinctive because of his bright red pickup truck, which was still in the driveway Wednesday.
He was a “quiet, normal guy, kept to himself.”
That characterization stands in contrast to a depiction by a former roommate of Long’s who described him as a “weird” loner who could be aggressively anti-social.
“He was kind of weird, he always locked himself in his room, he was always by himself,” Blake Winnett, 35, told the New York Post. “I didn’t really know him very well.”
He should have. Winnett and Long lived together on two occasions in 2012 and 2014, while Long was attending college in nearby Northridge. But Long apparently was purposefully standoffish.
“He didn’t want to help anyone do anything, he was just lazy, I guess,” Winnett recalled. When Long was once asked to take out the trash, he snarled, “That’s not my (expletive) job.”
Winnett said he saw no evidence of violence from Long, but describing him as sometimes trying to learn dance moves on his own. “He would close the garage and be playing music and dancing in there, like sweating,” Winnett said. “I would open the garage and would be like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Run-ins with local police
Local authorities said they had periodic contact with Long over the years.
He was the victim of a battery at a local Thousand Oaks bar and also had been involved in two traffic accidents. Deputies were called to his home last year because of a domestic dispute, where he was “somewhat irate and acting irrationally,” said Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.
However, after mental health professionals observed Long, they decided not to pull him in for further observation, Dean said.
Neighbors called to complain of loud noises earlier this year that sounded like he was damaging the house, neighbor Tom Hanson told local TV stations KTLA and KTTV.
“It sounded like he was tearing down the walls of the house,” Hanson said.
In a video obtained by Associated Press, successive shots were heard at the shooting scene at Southern California bar late on Wednesday. A sheriff says at least 13 people were killed, including a sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman. (Nov. 8) AP
The Marine Corps released a statement Thursday extending condolences to the victims and their families, noting that Long served from 2008 to 2013, including a 2010-11 stint in Afghanistan. He last post was at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii.
Whatever demons lived inside Long, they compelled him to dress Wednesday in a black, hooded outfit and load his legally purchased .45-caliber handgun that had an extended bullet magazine that is illegal in California.
Long then headed to the Borderline Bar & Grill in neighboring Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where he first shot security guards and then fired on hundreds of partiers who had gathered for the club’s regular “college night” event.
A sheriff’s sergeant was among the dead. Long was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Contributing: Jefferson Graham