Deputies and medical personnel rushed Wednesday night to a mass shooting at a bar in Orange County’s Trabuco Canyon, with authorities saying four were confirmed dead at the scene, including the shooter.
Six more people were taken to hospitals, including five with gunshot wounds, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
It happened on Santiago Canyon Road at Cook’s Corner, a biker bar where it was Spaghetti Night. Deputies were called there around 7:04 p.m. and arrived within four minutes.
“A deputy-involved shooting occurred, and the male subject was pronounced deceased at the scene,” sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Gonzalez said. “This investigation will be taking quite a bit of time to make sure we are able to go through all of the evidence.”
The evidence includes a weapon recovered at the scene.
William Mosby of Lake Forest heard the terrible news when he turned on TV station KCAL 9 (CBS Los Angeles).
He heard his daughter, Marie Snowling, was murdered, he said, as he walked with a cane to the Emergency Room at Providence Mission Hospital Mission Viejo.
“Her friend in the bar said she was shot in the lower jaw.”
Mosby found out from hospital staff that his daughter survived and was taken to UCI Medical Center.
“I’m extremely relieved, what I heard was the worst.”
Mosby said his daughter had gone through a divorce with her ex-husband, who was ex-law enforcement from where the couple once lived in the Camarillo area.
“He was a crazy husband, who couldn’t deal with the divorce.”
Mosby said Marie was headed over to the weekly spaghetti feed at Cook’s Corner on Wednesday night, just like every week.
Not too long after she left, Mosby said he heard police cars speeding by his yard on their way toward Trabuco Canyon.
“Friends started calling me and told me she’d been shot in the face.”
Providence Mission Hospital said in a statement that the six injured patients were taken there. Two were in critical condition and four were stable, the hospital said.
Sources confirmed the shooting likely started as a domestic dispute, with the shooter targeting his wife or estranged wife.
It is believed the shooter is a former law enforcement officer from outside of the area, sources confirmed.
Two members of the M Street pop band, which was performing, were shot but should survive.
“It was a happy group of people celebrating two birthdays,” band member Debbie Johnson said of the bar patrons.
She and her husband, Mark, who’s also in the band, hid behind speakers as the gunman was about 5 feet away
They saw him “so deliberately “ shoot two people, she said.
The band continued playing after the first few shots rang out, thinking it was a birthday gag, she said.
Social media posts showed a massive response by deputies, police from other agencies and Orange County Fire Authority personnel.
A CBS LA reporter in a helicopter around 8:15 p.m. reported seeing what appeared to be at least three sheets covering bodies, one in a parking lot, one on the street and one at the rear of the property. At least two others were being treated by emergency personnel.
Betty Fruichantie of Orange posted several videos and photos of a bloody scene at Cook’s Corner.
“This is real,” she wrote on Facebook at 7:45 p.m.. “… 4 or 6 shots strait (sic) at me. But he missed me. Thank you, God!!”
Her photos showed a large smear of blood on the floor of the bar. She shared videos of a chaotic scene outside the bar with deputies and paramedics working on shooting victims in the parking lot.
Ryan Guidus of Lake Forest was on the Cook’s Corner patio with his 7-month-old daughter and his mother-in-law when the shooting started. He has been coming to Cook’s Corner since he was 3 years old.
“It’s a family place.” He heard two shots and didn’t know what it was. Then more followed and he realized it was gunfire. “Everyone was screaming and running,” he said.
He took his baby out of her car seat and started running up a hill.
Gus Gunderman of Tustin was at Cook’s for the $8 spaghetti dinner. He left before the shooting, he said Wednesday night in a public post on Facebook.
“Family members saw family members die tonight,” he wrote. “Glad to be home safe. I left there not too long ago, like minutes before. Apparently it was soon enough.”
Lake Forest Mayor Doug Cirbo, who lives in Portola Hills a few minutes from Cook’s Corner, said he walked down and as he got nearby saw sheriff’s deputies in patrol vehicles escorting out ambulances at high speed.
“It was a massive chaotic situation,” he said, estimating 40 to 50 sheriff’s units.
Though known as a biker bar, he said Cook’s Corner is not a rowdy place, it has a great vibe, even for families. “It really is a great place, a community best-kept secret.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was monitoring the shooting “and coordinating with local officials as more details become available,” his office said.
A command post for law enforcement was set up at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.
Saddleback Church officials on Wednesday night said one of their members — who may have been part of a church hiking club — was among those injured in the shooting and that Saddleback Church pastor Andy and Stacie Wood were praying with the person’s family.
The victim’s identity and condition were not immediately available.
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“We are devastated and heartbroken over the shooting tonight in our community at Cook’s Corner where at least four people tragically lost their lives and others were injured,” a social media post said. “Praying isn’t the only thing we do, but it is the first thing we do. We want you to know we are working to create a space for our community to come together to pray and process. We’ll update you … with all of the details on that.
“Our hearts are hurting and we know yours are too. In moments like this, we cling to the promises of God. ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit — Psalm 34:18 (NIV).’”
Cook’s Corner was named after Andrew Jackson Cook, who obtained about 190 acres of Aliso Canyon in a land trade in 1884. His son, Earl Jack “E.J.” Cook, opened a roadside hamburger stand in 1931, and soon after Prohibition ended in 1933, alcohol was added to the menu and Cook’s became a full-fledged bar. In 1946, Cook bought an old mess hall from the Santa Ana Army Air Base, and the tavern was born.
Cook’s Corner on its website promotes cold beer and good food and says “children welcome.” “Cook’s Corner is considered to be one of the most famous biker bar & restaurant in Southern California,” the site says.
An earlier notable mass shooting in Orange County, also involving domestic violence, happened in October 2011 when Scott Dekraai fatally shot eight people at a hair salon in Seal Beach.
Wednesday’s shooting was the first mass shooting in the county since one at a Laguna Woods church in May 2022.
Reporters Mindy Schauer, Michael Slaten, Scott Schwebke, Samantha Gowen and Heather McRea contributed to this story.