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John Snowling identified as former police officer behind biker bar shooting

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The gunman who was shot dead after opening fire at a biker bar in California, killing three, has been identified as retired police officer John Snowling.

Snowling, who retired from the Ventura Police Department more than a decade ago, was identified as the man responsible for the shooting inside Cook’s Corner in rural Trabuco Canyon in Orange County on Wednesday night.

Authorities said deputies responded to the bar within two minutes of receiving reports of shots fired just after 7 p.m. They exchanged in gunfire with the shooter, who died at the scene, Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said at a Wednesday night news conference. A weapon was recovered from the scene, Hallock said.

Three victims died at the scene, while six others were transported to hospital with injuries. Two of the injured were in critical condition, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said on Wednesday night. No deputies were injured, the sheriff’s department said.

Police and emergency vehicles near Cook's Corner
Police and emergency vehicles seen after a shooting at Cook’s Corner bar in Trabuco Canyon, California, on August 23, 2023. Three people were killed by the shooter and six others injured.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The gunman had allegedly been targeting his estranged wife, The New York Times reported, citing a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

She was identified as Marie Snowling by her father, William Mosby, of Lake Forest. Mosby told The Orange County Register that he had heard his daughter was killed, but was relieved to find out she had been transported alive to a local hospital.

He said his daughter had recently divorced.

“He was a crazy husband, who couldn’t deal with the divorce,” Mosby told the newspaper.

Ventura Police Commander Mike Brown told the Ventura County Star on Wednesday that Orange County authorities had called the department to confirm the gunman had previously worked there.

Brown said the gunman joined the Ventura Police Department in July 1986 and retired as a sergeant in February 2014. Snowling was promoted to sergeant early in 2013, according to a report from the Ventura County Star at the time. He also previously served as president of the Ventura Police Officers Association.

Newsweek reached out to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Ventura Police Department via email for comment.

Hallock did not provide details about how the shooting unfolded during Wednesday night’s news conference and said it was too early to confirm if it was a domestic violence incident.

“That’s part of the ongoing investigation,” he said.

Cook’s Corner has been a popular stop for motorcyclists for decades and describes itself as the oldest biker bar in Southern California. Wednesday was the bar’s regular spaghetti night.

“We’ve experienced major earthquakes, forest fires, floods, recessions and other disasters. We’ve gotten through all of them and came out stronger. Ride down and check us out,” the bar says on its website.

California Governor Gavin Newsom was monitoring the shooting “and coordinating with local officials as more details become available,” his office wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday night.

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