Survivors of a mass shooting in southern California on Wednesday night that left at least 13 dead, including the gunman, have begun sharing harrowing accounts of their escape from the deadly scene.
Matt Wennerstrom, 20, said he had spent 30 minutes or so inside Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, located roughly 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, before the first round of gunshots rang out.
″I grabbed as many people as I possibly could around me, everyone, and got them below the pool table ... until we heard the shots stop,” Wennerstrom told CBS News. “At that point, I knew [the gunman] was reloading and there was not much he was going to be able to do.”
Wennerstrom said he saw another person throw a barstool through a window to escape so he “followed suit,” directing people out before the next round of shots were fired.
“We just pushed people towards the bar so they weren’t in the direct line of sight of him and then just filed as many people ― everyone that was there in that area ― out through that back window,” he said.
Wennerstrom, in an earlier interview with KABC, estimated he helped about 30 to 35 people escape the attack.
“As soon as I heard the shots, I knew exactly what was going on,” he told KABC. “I’m here to protect my friends, my family, my fellow humans, and I know where I’m going if I die so I was not worried to sacrifice. All I wanted to do was get as many people out of there as possible.”
One woman interviewed by KRCG, who was not identified, described the terrifying moment she realized the bar was being shot up. She said she was one of the patrons who fled through the broken windows.
“We were at the bar having fun, dancing ― and then all of a sudden you hear the bang bang of the gunshots and it just started going crazy,” she told reporters. “People were pushing. We thought it was a joke. We didn’t take it seriously at first.”
“Our friends got the barstools and they started slamming them against the windows so that we could get out,” she continued, breaking down into tears. “That’s how we were able to get out. They broke the window and we were able to climb out.”
Borderline, which bills itself as the “biggest dance floor in town,” had been hosting college night when the shooting occurred. Customers under the age of 21 are permitted into the bar, but staff marks their hands with “X”s to show they are not allowed to drink.
Teylor Whittler, 19, had been celebrating her friend’s 21st birthday at the bar when shots broke out. She told reporters she was on the dance floor when she saw the gunman opening fire.
“We all just kind of froze for a split second,” Whittler told Fox News, “and then everyone booked it and dove to the floor.”
“After the first round, it was quiet for about five seconds and then some guys that were next to me on the floor got up and started sprinting towards the back door and yelled at everyone, ‘Get up, run, he’s coming!’” she continued.
Whittler said she was stuck in a “dog pile” with dozens of people and getting trampled, so she wasn’t sure at the time whether she would be able to make it out until someone stopped to help her.
“This man came up from behind me and grabbed me by the waist and pulled me up,” Whittler said, “and he told me, ‘Run, get out, let’s go.’”
“The only thing going through my head the entire time was, ‘Get out. You gotta get out, get safe,’” she added. “I’m just shocked. I don’t understand how people could think this way. I don’t understand why this would happen. I didn’t think this would ever happen to me until it actually happened.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.