New details emerge in shooting at popular Southern California bar that left 3 dead

ByMorgan Winsor ABCNews logo
Friday, August 25, 2023

New details have emerged in the mass shooting that left three people dead and six others injured at a popular bar in Southern California on Wednesday night, which police say was carried out by a retired police sergeant.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Orange County, California, Sheriff Don Barnes said they believe the shooter -- 59-year-old former police sergeant John Snowling, who is now deceased -- traveled from Ohio amid an ongoing dispute over divorcing his wife in the run-up to the incident at Cook's Corner in Trabuco Canyon.

Barnes said that, based on witness statements, the suspect walked into the bar with two firearms in his possession and went directly to his estranged wife. He drew his weapon and fired on the woman, Barnes said. He then turned and fired on the person who was sharing the meal with his wife, authorities said.

The suspect then began randomly shooting at patrons of the popular venue, the sheriff said. He shot inside Cook's Corner and in the bar's outside area and then returned to his truck to retrieve two additional weapons, according to the authorities' current timeline of events. While the suspect was at his vehicle, police said, an individual approached the suspect and was shot. That person received aid but died at the scene. A third victim also died at the scene. All of the gunshot victims were adults.

The shooting was reported just after 7 p.m. PT Wednesday and deputies responded within minutes, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Dispatchers could hear the gunfire in the background as deputies tried to find the shooter, the sheriff's office said. Deputies then "contacted" an armed man and a "deputy-involved shooting involving multiple deputies occurred," the sheriff's office said.

Members of the sheriff's department immediately engaged with the shooter and gunfire was exchanged. No deputies were injured, but the man was killed in the shootout, Barnes said.

Two of the deceased -- a man and a woman -- haven't been identified and next of kin have not been notified. A 67-year-old man from Irvine was one of the victims, the sheriff said.

Six others were taken to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. Two of the injured were initially hospitalized in critical condition and the other four were considered stable. At Thursday's press conference, a trauma medical doctor from the hospital said all patients are now stable. Two are in critical condition, and one has been released from the hospital.

Early Thursday morning, authorities confirmed the only woman hospitalized from the shooting was shot in the jaw and listed in critical condition, according to Providence Mission Hospital.

The second critical patient, an adult male, was shot in the chest, according to the hospital.

Snowling worked at Southern California's Ventura Police Department from 1986 until his retirement in 2014, according to Ventura police.

"Our hearts weigh heavy with the distressing incident at Cook's Corner," Ventura Police Chief Darin Schindler said in a statement. "Our deepest condolences are with the families of the victims, the survivors, and the Orange County deputies who swiftly responded to the scene. This incident deeply affects us all."

In the wake of the shooting, Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted the role of red flag laws and urged Californians to speak up to help "safely remove guns from those who may be a potential threat."

"There are early reports that this horror was related to a domestic dispute," Newsom said in a statement. "Two-thirds of mass shooters in America have a history of domestic violence."

"Victims and survivors in California should know they are never alone -- we have tools and resources to support and protect you," he continued. "Our state's red flag laws allow victims, family members, coworkers, and others to work with local law enforcement and the courts to safely remove guns from those who may be a potential threat. We must continue to strengthen, defend, and use these laws. If you see red flags, say something -- and in doing so, save lives."

ABC News' Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.

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