News

Gunman First Opened Fire on Estranged Wife in California Mass Shooting: Sheriff

Gunman First Opened Fire on Estranged Wife in California Mass Shooting: Sheriff

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes delivers an update on the Cooks Corner restaurant shooting in Traduce Canyon, Calif., which killed three and injured six, at a press conference in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie LiJohn Fredricks

Sophie Li & John Fredricks

8/24/2023

Updated: 8/25/2023

SANTA ANA, Calif.—A retired police officer, who killed three people and injured six others in a mass shooting at a historic restaurant in Trabuco Canyon Aug. 23, was initially targeting his estranged wife before he started shooting randomly, authorities said.
The sheriff’s department on Thursday identified the 59-year-old suspect as John Snowling, who retired from the Ventura Police Department as a sergeant in 2014, ending a career that began in 1986.
Mr. Snowling was fatally shot during an exchange of gunfire with Orange County sheriff deputies.
Mr. Snowling—who is believed to have had residences in Camarillo, in Orange County, and in Ohio—traveled from Ohio to Southern California and, on Wednesday night, arrived at Cook’s Corner, a historical “biker bar,” where he knew his estranged wife would be, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said at a press conference Aug. 24. The couple were in the midst of a divorce.
“It is unfortunate that we’re back together talking about another mass shooting incident in Orange County. It was only last year we had the incident at Geneva Presbyterian Church,” Mr. Barnes said, referring to the incident when a man opened fire, killing a prominent Orange County doctor and attempting to kill 44 others last May during a luncheon banquet at a church in Laguna Woods.
The shooting occurred at about 7 p.m. at the restaurant on the 19100 block of Santiago Canyon Rd.
According to the sheriff’s department, responding deputies arrived at the scene 2 minutes after receiving multiple 911 calls and fatally shot the gunman within minutes of their arrival.
Police officers are seen on a blocked-off road after a shooting at nearby bar "Cook's Corner" in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on August 23, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Police officers are seen on a blocked-off road after a shooting at nearby bar "Cook's Corner" in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on August 23, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The sheriff said that though it was unclear whether Mr. Snowling was tracking his wife’s movements, it was clear that he knew she was at the restaurant that night. He noted that based on accounts from witnesses, the gunman approached her directly and, without engaging in any conversation or dispute, fired one shot.
Reportedly, Mr. Snowling arrived at the bar carrying four weapons—three handguns and a shotgun.
He initially armed himself with two of the handguns and later withdrew to his silver pickup truck in the bar’s parking lot and obtained another handgun and the shotgun, Mr. Barnes said.
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)

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)

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Mr. Snowling opened fire at them, prompting seven deputies to return fire, killing him at the scene, the sheriff said.
“Team of deputies responded to the upper parking lot area where they located the suspect,” Mr. Barnes said. “The suspect began firing multiple rounds at our deputies from a shotgun, [and] several patrol units were struck by gunfire.”
At least 75 rounds of shots were fired by the deputies, ultimately killing the suspect, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who also spoke at the press conference. He said that his office will review the deputies’ activity.
However, he said he has not seen any evidence that leads him to believe “in any manner whatsoever that their actions were anything other than heroic, and there is no indication from their actions last night of any criminal behavior or excessive use of force in any way.”
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)

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)

Victims

Four people, including the suspect, were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, according to Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Cheyne Maule, who also spoke at the press conference.
The three victims were Tonya Clark, 49, of Scottsdale, Arizona, Glen Sprowl Jr., 53, of Stanton, and John Leehey, 67, of Irvine, the sheriff’s department reported Friday.
According to the sheriff, the gunman shot his wife first before turning to Ms. Clark, who was dining with his wife. She was shot and ultimately died outside the bar.
Mr. Snowling also fatally shot Mr. Leehey and Mr. Sprowl, who attempted to confront him to stop the shooting, according to the sheriff.
(L-R) Tonya Clark, 49, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and John Leehey, 67, of Irvine, Calif. (Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department)

(L-R) Tonya Clark, 49, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and John Leehey, 67, of Irvine, Calif. (Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department)

Six other victims were taken to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where two—Ms. Snowling and a man who was shot in the chest—were listed in critical condition, the hospital’s Medical Director Tetsuya Takeuchi said.
Mr. Snowling’s wife, identified in court papers as Marie Snowling, suffered a gunshot wound to her jaw.
She was initially listed in critical condition and was later transferred overnight to the University of California–Irvine Medical Center in the City of Orange, according to hospital officials.
She was reported to be conscious and talking to her adult son—one of two adult children she shared with the shooter, Mr. Barnes said.
The four others injured were all male and were all transported to a local hospital. One was released last night. Two others were expected to be released Aug. 24, and the fourth, who was shot in the arm, was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday, according to hospital officials.
Mark Johnson, pianist for the M-Street Band that was performing at the bar when the shooting happened, told the Los Angeles Times two of the injured individuals were members of the band, and they “were hospitalized but stable.”
The band was performing during the bar’s popular weekly spaghetti dinner night.
Mr. Barnes added that all victims involved in this shooting were adults.
As of Thursday morning, roads leading to the three-way intersection where the restaurant is located have been blocked off, officers on the scene told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Barnes said that over 100 sheriff deputies are working at the scene to collect evidence.
Police and emergency vehicles are seen after a shooting at "Cook's Corner" bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Police and emergency vehicles are seen after a shooting at "Cook's Corner" bar in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

A ‘Family Spot’

Cook’s Corner holds a prominent reputation as a renowned bar and popular biker gathering spot. While its origins trace back to the late 1800s, it transformed into a restaurant in the 1920s.
Both the sheriff and Orange County Supervisor Chairman Don Wagner said that although the bar was historically a well-known biker gathering spot, it is known in the community as a family-friendly location. “The truth is that it is a family spot,” Mr. Wagner said. “I’ve been out there when they’ve done charity events. I’ve been out there when they put on music shows for our veterans. ... It is a wholesome place.”
Mr. Barnes also said that “what happened there yesterday is not a definition of or not consistent with what Cook’s Corner and that community is known for.
“It’s a tragedy. We mourn for those who lost their lives, their families, and our condolences go to ... those who were injured,” he said.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Sophie Li

Sophie Li

Author

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.

Author's Selected Articles
John Fredricks

John Fredricks

Author

John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.