Law enforcement officers investigate the crime scene of a mass shooting at Cooks Corner restaurant in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
TRABUCO CANYON, Calif.—Two members of the band that was performing at Cook’s Corner bar in Trabuco Canyon are out of the hospital and recovering at home—thanking friends and others for their support.
Dave Stretch and Ed Means, members of the M Street band that was performing when the shooting broke out around 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, posted an update Saturday on Instagram, with a photo showing them smiling with loved ones next to a table containing food and get-well cards and flowers.
“First M St get-together since Cook’s Corner felt so good,” they wrote. “Such a wonderful outpouring of support from all our friends with flowers, food, cards, and well wishes. We are so grateful to you all!'’
The shooting took place Wednesday evening at the famed biker bar in the 19100 block of Santiago Canyon Road. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Thursday the gunman—59-year-old retired Ventura Police Department Sgt. John Snowling—entered the bar carrying two handguns and walked directly to his estranged wife, Marie, and shot her once.
Marie Snowling’s family said she was shot in the jaw but survived.
The gunman then shot the woman with whom his wife was dining, 49-year-old Tonya Clark of Scottsdale, Arizona. Ms. Clark managed to run outside the bar, where she died.
A sheriff's deputy stands in the road after a shooting at "Cook's Corner" bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Also killed were Glen Sprowl Jr., 53, of Stanton, and John Leehey, 67, of Irvine.
John Snowling was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.
Six other people were injured. According to the most recent update provided last week, two of the injured victims remained in critical condition: Marie Snowling, who was transferred to UCI Medical Center in Orange from Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, and an unidentified man who was shot in the chest.
Another victim, a male cook at the restaurant, was shot in an arm, witnesses said.
On Sunday, the bar’s general manager, Rhonda Palmeri, posted a short video on Facebook, saying, “On behalf of Cook’s Corner, myself and the staff, I would like to send my most sincere condolences to the families of Tonya, Glen and John and all the injured and those fighting for their lives. And the friends and families of Cook’s Corner who were here Wednesday, Aug. 23, for the most horrific act by one man who has changed the lives of so many.”
She thanked everyone who has reached out and offered support for the establishment and everyone affected by the shooting. She also said there will be a private gathering eventually for people impacted by the shooting.
Ms. Palmeri added that it was still unclear when the bar might reopen.
Law enforcement officers block off and investigate the crime scene of a mass shooting at Cooks Corner restaurant in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A prayer gathering on Friday night—including a procession of motorcyclists—brought people together to mourn the three victims at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. The event, attended by members of Mr. Leehey’s family and others impacted by the tragedy, was also live-streamed on the church’s social media channels.
“This tragedy has left many friends and family members devastated, and many more members of the community shocked and dismayed,” church pastor Andy Wood said. “This is a time we can come together and ask God for comfort and healing.”
James O'Malley, who was at Cook’s Corner with Mr. Leehey, told reporters the pair were having a beer in the bar’s picnic area when they heard gunshots and saw people running outside. He said they both also started to run, and he saw his friend fall to the ground.
“I thought he tripped, and then my mind said, no, that wasn’t a trip because he didn’t even cushion his fall,” Mr. O'Malley told CBS2.
In fact, Mr. Leehey had been shot in the back and died at the scene.
Mr. Barnes said the other man killed, believed to be Mr. Sprowl, was shot when he attempted to engage the gunman outside the bar, hoping to bring a halt to the gunfire.
After the initial barrage of gunshots, Mr. Snowling went to a silver pickup in the bar’s parking lot and retrieved another handgun and a shotgun, then he continued shooting, Mr. Barnes said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes delivers an update on the Cooks Corner shooting in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Arriving sheriff’s deputies quickly spotted the gunman, who shot at the law-enforcement personnel, prompting them to return fire. According to Mr. Barnes and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, seven deputies shot at the gunman, firing at least 75 rounds, killing the suspect.
According to the Ventura Police Department, Mr. Snowling retired from the police department as a sergeant in February 2014, ending a career that began in July 1986.
Mr. Barnes said Mr. Snowling—who apparently has residences in Camarillo, Orange County and Ohio—traveled from Ohio to Southern California then made his way to Cook’s Corner, where he knew his estranged wife would be. Marie Snowling had filed for divorce in December, and the case was still pending.
It was unclear how long Mr. Snowling had been in the Orange County area or if he had been following his estranged wife’s movements. But Mr. Barnes said it was clear that Mr. Snowling knew she was at Cook’s Corner Wednesday night. He said that according to witnesses, Mr. Snowling walked directly up to her and shot her without saying anything.
The couple have two adult children. Mr. Barnes said Marie Snowling’s son was with her at the hospital on Thursday, and she was awake and talking.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer delivers an update on the Cooks Corner restaurant shooting at a press conference in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Spitzer said his office will review the propriety of the law-enforcement shooting, but he hasn’t found any evidence to believe “in any way whatsoever that their acts were nothing less than heroic and that nothing they did ... indicates any criminal activity or excessive use of force in any way whatsoever.”
Cook’s Corner is a well-known bar and biker hangout. The building is believed to date back to the late 1800s, although it did not begin operating as a restaurant until the 1920s. The restaurant bills itself as “one of the most famous biker bars in Southern California.”
Orange County leaders said that while Cook’s Corner is known as a biker bar, it is really a regular gathering place for families and the community, particularly during its weekly Wednesday night $8 spaghetti dinner special, which was occurring when the shooting erupted.
“It’s a gathering place,” Mr. Barnes said. “It’s a place for families to go to share a meal. It’s a tight-knit community.”
Mr. Spitzer added, “This is personal. I am one of those bikers. I am one of those people that would often go on Wednesday nights for spaghetti night. ... It is iconic, it is special. And nothing that happened last night is going to ruin either the canyon, its austerity, its prominence or Cook’s Corner.”