3 dead, 5 wounded after a retired police officer opens fire at a Southern California biker bar

  • In an image from video, authorities work at the scene of a fatal shooting Wednesday at Cook's Corner, a biker bar in rural Trabuco Canyon, California.

    In an image from video, authorities work at the scene of a fatal shooting Wednesday at Cook's Corner, a biker bar in rural Trabuco Canyon, California. Associated Press

Updated 8/24/2023 1:41 PM

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. -- A retired police officer opened fire in a popular Southern California biker bar, leaving three dead and at least five others with gunshot wounds.

Deputies arrived at the bar two minutes after the shooting was reported Wednesday night and shot and killed the gunman, Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Frank Gonzalez said. The sheriff's department in a post Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter, identified the gunman as John Snowling, 59, and said his wife was injured in the shooting.


Betty Fruichantie told NBC4 Los Angeles that she was with the shooter's wife in the storied Cook's Corner bar, in Orange County's rural Trabuco Canyon near the suburban city of Lake Forest, when gunfire erupted. Some people ran, while others froze.

Fruichantie said Marie Snowling dropped to the floor. Fruichantie didn't know whether her friend was hit. With bullets flying past her face, Fruichantie ran and hid in a restroom with others.

"And when we came out, people were on the floor and people were like over people trying to help them, just holding their wounds," she said.

Marie Snowling's father, William Mosby, of Lake Forest, told The Orange County Register outside Providence Mission Hospital that his daughter was taken to UCI Medical Center after being shot. He initially heard she had been killed, he told the newspaper.

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"I'm extremely relieved," Mosby said. "What I heard was the worst."

UCI Medical center confirmed in a statement that it received one patient from Providence Mission. It said there was no further information on that patient's identity or condition.

Three people and the gunman were pronounced dead at the scene.

Six people were taken to a hospital, five of them with gunshot wounds, the Orange County Sheriff's Department posted on social media. Two were in critical condition, according to a statement from Providence Mission Hospital, in nearby Mission Viejo.

The gunman was a retired officer with the Ventura Police Department, Cmdr. Mike Brown said the department was told by Orange County authorities, according to the Ventura County Star newspaper. He worked at the agency from 1986 to 2014, Brown said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was monitoring the shooting "and coordinating with local officials as more details become available," his office tweeted.


Local band M Street was playing on the indoor stage when the shooting happened, said vocalist Debbie Johnson. People had been dancing, then cleared the floor and were sitting down, holding shaker eggs the band had given out, she said.

Two people in the crowd were celebrating birthdays, and the band wished them happy birthday and promised a special song later in the evening, she said.

It never came.

"We launched into our next song and somewhere in the middle of it this man just walks in, doesn't say a word, and just starts shooting," she said.

Dozens of patrol cars and ambulances swarmed Cook's Corner, which has long been a place for motorcyclists to gather for live music, open-mic nights or just a cold beer after a long ride. It calls itself the oldest motorcycle bar in Southern California and sits at the intersection of two picturesque highways in an area of scrubby hills and bike paths. It attracts everyone from motorcycle riders on choppers to and cyclists in Lycra to families with young children.

Hours before the shooting, rows of motorcycles and bikes framed the gravel entrance where plaques describe the bar's history.

"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.

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