Borderline Bar & Grill Mainstay Describes the Bar and Staff Wrecked by Shooting
Borderline Bar & Grill is a lively Thousand Oaks, Calif., bar and country music venue with a tight-knit staff who came together after one mass shooting already. Country band Highway Starr are regulars, and drummer and band leader Rob Jones tells Taste of Country he's friends with the owner and knows some of those killed well.
Jones has played this venue dozens of times over they years. Highway Starr are local favorites, and Jones also plays drums for Yachtley Crew, another band that plays Borderline frequently. He says he and his wife — who handles merchandise for the country band — are synonymous with the venue, and he had plans to be there on Wednesday night to talk about their upcoming show with the entertainment booker. A sick kid and a wife who'd decided to sleep at home instead of the hospital for the first time in several nights changed his mind, but what promised to be a restful night in their own bed became a reminder of Oct. 1, 2017, when Jones and his band were running for cover at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
“I know what they’re going through today," he says flatly, speaking of Wednesday night's (Nov. 7) mass shooting at Borderline. "I know what they’re gonna go through tomorrow. I know what they’ll go through in a year."
Jones called around noon local time on Thursday — roughly 12 hours after a man killed 12 with a handgun. By then he'd started to hear rumors of friends who'd been shot and texted or talked to others who made it out alive.
"Every time a door slams it gets your attention," he admits.
After the Las Vegas shooting last year, Borderline Bar & Grill held a survivors' benefit night which Highway Starr played, Jones says. As his phone lit up on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, he found himself in a position similar to one his father was put in 13 months ago: in front of a television and able to provide details to those on the ground who couldn't get it in the chaos.
It was an odd kind of unwanted flashback.
“I know what it’s like to have to escape that kind of incident," Jones says. "I can see why people were jumping out of windows.”
Twelve were killed and many more injured trying to escape. At the time of the conversation, only Sgt. Ron Helus, 22-year-old Cody Coffman, 23-year-old Justin Meek and Alaina Housely (niece of actress Tamera Mowry-Housely) had been identified as victims. Jones knew Meek and alluded to another victim that Taste of Country won't identify or describe until authorities do so first. He did not know the alleged shooter, 28-year-old Ian David Long.
"I’ve never seen him or heard of him," Jones says.
The future of the venue is obviously an unknown, and it's far too early to consider that. Jones' attention was squarely on the families of those affected, but he did say that having dodged two mass shootings won't stop him from playing live country music. He can't understand why the shooter targeted this bar, but doesn't feel any amount of security can stop someone who's truly determined to kill. He believes it could happen anywhere.
"I can’t just crawl into a cave or hide," he says.
Jones does have advice to anyone affected by this shooting, or others: embrace opportunities to talk about the tragedy with friends, family and especially professionals.
Note: These pictures taken from the area around the shooting are not graphic, but may be disturbing.
See Photos From Outside California's Borderline Bar Shooting