Four people are dead, including the shooter, and six people were injured after a retired law enforcement officer opened fire at Cook’s Corner, a family-friendly biker bar and restaurant located in Trabuco Canyon in rural eastern Orange County, report multiple media outlets. Before the incident on August 23, the Los Angeles Times reported that families were eating plates of spaghetti and salad on the patio while inside the bar, people waited for the M Street rock band to start their set. At around 7 p.m. police assert that John Snowling, a retired sergeant who previously worked at the Ventura Police Department, opened fire in an effort to target his estranged wife. Law enforcement responded to the incident within minutes, and a confrontation with the shooter led to his death.
The property was originally the site of a roadside burger stand going back to 1931, which turned into a bar after Prohibition ended in 1933. It became a tavern that served food in 1946 after owner Earl Jack “E.J.” Cook hauled a mess hall up from Santa Ana Army base. According to the New York Times, Cook’s Corner claims to be Southern California’s oldest biker bar, drawing motorcyclists of all stripes beginning in the 1970s, including gang affiliates, law enforcement, and retirees. It has also hosted community events like weddings, charity events, and funerals over the years.
Longtime Cook’s Corner patron Gus Gunderman, who has been frequenting the establishment for four decades, said he’s never once felt unsafe there. “I’ve never even seen a fight there. This could have happened anywhere. It has nothing to do with motorcycles or motorcycle culture,” he told the LA Times.
As of Thursday morning, two of the injured were in critical condition while four were in stable condition at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. Marie Snowling, John Snowling’s estranged wife, was among the injured. There was no word on when Cook’s Corner would reopen.