Gunman in deadly mass shooting at Southern California bar ID'd as retired Ventura police officer

Among the wounded victims was the gunman's estranged wife, who was shot in the facial area, authorities said.

ByTony Cabrera KABC logo
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Gunman in deadly CA bar shooting ID'd as retired police officer
A retired Ventura police officer has been identified as the gunman who was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies after a mass shooting that left three victims dead and six others wounded at a bar in Trabuco Canyon.

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. -- A retired Ventura, California police officer has been identified as the gunman who was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies after a mass shooting that left three victims dead and six others wounded at a bar in Trabuco Canyon.

The Orange County district attorney's office on Thursday confirmed to ABC News that the shooter was John Snowling.

Investigators have concluded that Snowling was a retired Ventura Police Department officer.

The shooting happened Wednesday evening at Cook's Corner, a well-known biker bar and grill on Santiago Canyon Road.

Five people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and a sixth person was hospitalized with a non-gunshot injury, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Among the wounded survivors was Snowling's estranged wife, who was shot in the facial area.

Officials with Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo say the facility received and treated six patients in connection with the incident. Two were described as being in critical condition and four were stable.

Sheriff's officials confirmed that deputies were on the scene within two minutes of the first emergency call, and two minutes after that were involved in a shooting that left the suspect dead. No deputies were injured.

The initial call about the shooting at Cook's Corner came in at 7:04 p.m., according to OCSD Sgt. Frank Gonzalez. By 7:06 p.m., deputies had arrived at the bar.

"About 7:08 p.m. our deputies contacted a male subject who was armed with a gun," Gonzalez said. "A deputy-involved shooting occurred and the male subject was pronounced deceased at the scene."

On Wednesday night, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said it was looking into reports that the suspect shot his wife at the bar.

"This tragic incident weighs heavy on our community and the first responders, and our hearts go out to all those involved," said Chief Brian Fennessy with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Orange County Sheriff's Department briefing

Officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Department are offering details on a shooting that left three people dead at a Trabuco Canyon bar.

One witness indicated the shooter was confronted by the deputies after he went outside to his truck, apparently to reload.

"He came in, he went back to reload and bring more guns and the cops found him," the woman said. "I'm glad I didn't die. He shot four or six at me and missed."

Nelson Rosales said he was heading to Cook's Corner on his motorcycle when he was flagged down by a motorist a short distance from the bar. He stopped, thinking she needed help with her vehicle.

"The lady told me don't go to the bar, they're shooting," Rosales recalled. "Sure enough seconds later I hear the shots fired. I see people walking out the bar. Saw a couple bodies drop."

"I called 911, they told me they already had deputies on the way. As soon as the deputies rolled up, he started unloading on them as well. They returned fire. I ducked for cover."

He said he believed the shooter was armed with a long rifle. Investigators confirmed they recovered at least one weapon at the scene.

FBI and ATF agents were also responding to the scene to assist with the investigation.

Cook's Corner is a popular and well-known hangout for motorcycle enthusiasts with a history that dates back more than a century. Andrew Jackson Cook acquired the Orange County property in the late 1800s. It opened as a restaurant in 1926 and then sold alcohol after Prohibition ended.

The Cook family sold the bar in the 1970s.

Prior to the shooting, customers had gathered Wednesday to enjoy the bar's regular Spaghetti Night Special. It wasn't immediately known how many people were inside the bar when the gunfire erupted, but sheriff's investigators were interviewing 30 to 40 witnesses.