Thousand Oaks shooting survivor: 'I heard what I thought was a balloon pop'

Alex Lasker

A woman who survived Wednesday's deadly mass shooting at a California country bar gave a chilling account of the attack, which claimed at least 12 victims.

Taylor Von Molt, a 21-year-old patron who was at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks when shots rang out, told CNN that at first, she mistook the gunfire for the sound of a popping balloon.

"It's a country bar so we were line dancing, and I heard what I thought was a balloon pop," Von Molt said. "I was confused because we didn’t have any balloons at the time ... I turned around and saw him fire his weapon a couple of times and I ran to the nearest exit and tripped and fell on the way."

Once Von Molt was able to escape the venue, she said she ran up a hill to a nearby apartment block and took shelter until authorities arrived.

Borderline Bar & Grill was reportedly packed with over a hundred patrons, most of them who turned out for the bar's weekly "college night" on Wednesday night, when the shooting unfolded.

Photos from the scene: 

The 29-year-old gunman, whose identity has not yet been released, entered the venue shortly before midnight local time, shot a bouncer and a cashier and then deployed a smoke bomb.

Chaos ensued as witnesses say the gunman, allegedly a tall white male dressed in all black with his face partly covered, began firing his weapon, a .45-caliber handgun, indiscriminately. 

"He was shooting everything — from the speakers to anything," survivor Summer Helmuth said. "So all we really saw was smoke."

Shots were still being fired when law enforcement officials arrived at the scene, Ventura County Sheriff's Office Capt. Garo Kuredjian said during a Thursday news conference.

Sgt. Ron Helus, also of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, was among the first officers to respond to the bar.

Helus, a 29-year police veteran who had hoped to retire from the force in a year, was shot multiple times while entering the bar and tragically died later on from his injuries.

The gunman's body was later found inside the bar, but it remains unclear how he died.

The Associated Press reports that Borderline Bar & Grill, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University. Pepperdine University also confirmed on Twitter that multiple of its students were present at the time of the attack.