4 Dead in Shooting at Cook’s Corner Bar in Orange County, California

At least four people were dead, including a gunman, and six others were injured after a man believed to have been a retired law enforcement officer opened fire at a popular biker bar in Southern California on Wednesday evening as a crowd gathered for a rock music show and spaghetti night, the authorities said.

The shooting occurred at about 7 p.m. at Cook’s Corner, a bar in Trabuco Canyon, a rural community in eastern Orange County, Jeff Hallock, undersheriff at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said.

The injured were taken to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif. Two of the patients were in critical condition, and four were in stable condition, the hospital said.

Undersheriff Hallock said the shooting erupted in front of as many as 40 people. He called the incident “an absolute tragic event.”

He added that law enforcement officers responded within minutes of receiving multiple 911 calls of shots being fired, and after deputies confronted the suspect it was “safe to assume that they engaged the shooter.” The gunman died at the scene, and at least one weapon has been recovered, he said.

Another law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation was ongoing said the suspected gunman, who had retired several years ago from an agency elsewhere in Southern California, had been targeting his estranged wife, who was among the dead.

The wood-paneled bar has, since the 1970s, been a popular stop for motorcyclists driving through the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Its clientele has included gang affiliates, retirees and law enforcement officers. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former California governor, has been a patron, and in 2006 he held a reception at Cook’s Corner, arriving on a motorcycle.

The bar, which sits on 12 acres of land, has also hosted weddings, charity events and funeral services.

In 2008, as fire raged in nearby canyons, the bar served as a home base for weary firefighters. For about 10 days, they took over the building, packing it with their gear and clothes, holding meetings and eating meals. Outside, they slept on the ground or surrounding picnic tables.

“When the canyon was lit up, the firefighters came into work and they were laying on the benches and everything out here so we kind of just opened it up,” Rhonda Palmeri, the bar’s manager, said in a recent interview.

Wednesday was the bar’s regular spaghetti night, featuring pasta, salad and garlic bread. An Orange County rock band, M Street, had been scheduled to take the stage right after happy hour, and had posted a video of the stage — keyboard, drums, electric guitar — earlier in the evening.

In May 2022, a gunman at a church about 14 miles away in Laguna Woods, Calif.., killed one person and wounded five others before he was subdued by parishioners.

“Heartbroken to hear of another senseless mass shooting, this time in our own backyard,” Katrina Foley, an Orange County supervisor, said on X. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.

Dave Min, a state senator from Orange County, sounded a similar note in a statement posted to X.

“I’m devastated by news of yet another mass shooting,” he said. “Our district is one of the safest areas in the country, and yet we too are repeatedly afflicted with the scourge of mass shootings.”

Corina Knoll contributed reporting.

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