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California Bar Reopens After Mass Shooting, Residents Mourn Victims

California Bar Reopens After Mass Shooting, Residents Mourn Victims

People partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar, after the a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

9/4/2023

Updated: 9/4/2023

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif.—When Ann Marie Jensen pulled her car up next to a silver pickup truck in the back parking lot at Cook’s Corner on Aug. 23, little did she realize she was mere feet away from the gunman who would take three people’s lives and injure six others just minutes later.
Nearly two weeks later, she found herself standing in front of a growing monument for Tanya Clark, 49, of Scottsdale, Arizona, John Leehey, 67, of Irvine, and Glen Sprowl Jr., 53, of Stanton—who died in the shooting after a former Ventura police officer open fire on his estranged wife and others.
“It’s beyond a shock because never in your life do you think that you would be a statistic of a mass shooting,” she told The Epoch Times. “I saw Tanya, she was celebrating her birthday, and I saw Marie.”
The shooting occurred at about 7 p.m. at the historic restaurant on the 19100 block of Santiago Canyon Road.
Patrons and families were enjoying the restaurant’s regular Wednesday night $8 spaghetti dinner when John Snowling entered and began firing, first toward his wife, Marie Snowling, before opening fire randomly.
At first, Ms. Jensen—who was on her way to talk to a friend after ordering a drink and a plate of spaghetti—mistook the shots for fireworks, she said.
But then she realized.
“I screamed, ‘That’s gun smoke,’ and we started running,” she said.
One of her friends, Mr. Leehey, was shot and fell to the ground soon after.
A man waters flowers at a memorial site set up for victims of a recent mass shooting at Cook's Corner restaurant and bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A man waters flowers at a memorial site set up for victims of a recent mass shooting at Cook's Corner restaurant and bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Snowling was fatally shot during an exchange of gunfire with Orange County sheriff deputies several minutes after they responded to multiple 911 calls at the location.
“I just had a conversation with John [Leehey] not too long ago. He was a landscape architect, and we were talking about gardening,” she said. “He’s such a nice guy and I just can’t believe he’s gone.”
Sept. 1 was the first time that Cook’s Corner opened to the public since the shooting. Rhonda Palmeri, its general manager announced the soft reopening in a video posted on Facebook earlier that week.
“We feel it’s time to bring the family back together,” Ms. Palmeri said in the video. “We want to be here for the community, and we need the community here for us.”
She also announced that Orange County Supervisor Chair Don Wagner’s office will hold a vigil Sept. 6 at the Library of the Canyons at 7531 Santiago Canyon Road at 7 p.m.
People mourn the loss of victims after a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded at Cook's Corner restaurant and bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

People mourn the loss of victims after a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded at Cook's Corner restaurant and bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Wagner, who oversees the Trabuco Canyon area, said it is crucial for the community to unite and find comfort.
“It’s important for people to be out here today. It’s important to start confronting the evil that happened and find ways ... as a community to move past this without ever forgetting the victims,” he told The Epoch Times at Friday’s memorial.
Additionally, he said that remembering and paying respects would help all begin the long journey of recovery.
“I think it speaks to the resilience of all of Orange County because, though, it’s a pillar of the canyons, people come from all over the county and beyond to be here, and every one of them was attacked in a small way, and every one of them can join in the healing process,” he said.
Though the restaurant has always been known as a “rough and tumble biker bar,” Mr. Wagner said, it also is a family place for the community.
“[You see] the sign right there, ‘Children Welcome.’ They were, they are, and they will be again,” he said.
People partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar, after the a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

People partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar, after the a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Cook’s Corner is known as a renowned bar and popular biker gathering spot. While its origins trace to the late 1800s, it transformed into a restaurant in the 1920s.
Like Ms. Jensen, who started frequenting the restaurant in the 1980s, many other long-time customers also came to the memorial to support the community.
Douglas Croson, a Mission Viejo resident who came with his young daughter, said that he’s been coming to Cook’s Corner since 1996.
“It’s very heavy,” he told The Epoch Times. “For people who live close to here, this is home. It’s a family, a community.”
Buddy, a longtime patron at the restaurant, who only gave his first name, told The Epoch Times he felt a sense of comfort at the memorial.
“I can see that the staff I’ve known here for years are safe and are healing,” he said. “Darkness walked into Cook’s Corner, but that darkness isn’t going to stay.”
People partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar, after the a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

People partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar, after the a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded, in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A mountain biker from Anaheim Hills, Qing Yu, said he had cycled past the restaurant for more than a decade and had dined there several times. At the memorial Friday, he said it was difficult to witness such a tragic incident befall the local community.
“I think humans need to look at themselves and really ask why they’re here and why they are doing things they do,” he said.
Ms. Jensen said she couldn’t agree more.
“People need to be kind to one another. You should always tell everybody that you love them every day,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t understand why our world has gotten so crazy. This kind of violence had to stop. It’s not the America that I knew.”
Traces of gunfire remain visible as people partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar after a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Traces of gunfire remain visible as people partake in the reopening of Cook's Corner restaurant and bar after a recent mass shooting left three dead and several wounded in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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