Ex-cop targeted estranged wife in deadly Orange County biker bar shooting (2023)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Aug. 25.

A gunman killed three and wounded six others at a biker bar in Orange County’s Trabuco Canyon on Wednesday evening.

A family-friendly bar, Cook’s Corner is a popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts, nestled where El Toro, Santiago Canyon and Live Oak Canyon roads meet near O’Neill Regional Park. On Wednesday the bar has an $8 all-you-can-eat spaghetti night.

The members of classic-rock cover band M Street were a few songs into their 7 p.m. set, midway through Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” when they heard loud bangs.

A gunman had entered the bar, where families were having dinner and some groups celebrated birthdays, and began firing before continuing shooting outside.


“I couldn’t even give you a number of shots he took,” M Street member Debbie Johnson told Times reporter August Brown. “Fifty? More? The Cook’s staff were protecting the other side of the building closer to the kitchen. But we were truly fish in a barrel.”

The shooter died at the scene after a gun battle with police. He had four weapons, two pistols, a revolver and a shotgun, all acquired legally, officials said.

Officials identified the gunman as John Snowling, 59, a former sergeant in the Ventura Police Department and former head of the Ventura Police Officers’ Association. He retired from the department in 2014.

Authorities said the assailant was targeting his estranged wife, Marie Snowling, a regular at the bar.

Marie Snowling filed for divorce in December 2022. She then moved out of the couple’s home in Camarillo to Orange County to live with her sick mother, according to James Goldsmith, one of the Snowlings’ neighbors.

John Snowling was living in Ohio.

On Wednesday night, the gunman walked up to his estranged wife and immediately shot her once, wounding her. He then shot the woman with whom she was dining, who later died. She has not been identified by name.

Another man was shot after he confronted the gunman in the bar’s parking lot, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said. That man, who also has not been identified, later died.


Officials identified one of the men who was killed as John Leehey, 67, of Irvine.

Two of the injured were in critical condition and the others were stable. Some have already been released from the hospital.

Among those injured were M Street guitarist Ed Means and bassist Dave Stretch. Their bandmates said they would be OK.

Barnes said investigators were still searching for a motive.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California from Ryan Fonseca:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Ex-cop targeted estranged wife in deadly Orange County biker bar shooting (1)

Mauro Rios Parra sells paletas to people in an apartment complex on June 16, 2020, in Los Angeles.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

If you don’t hear the paleteros’ cheerful bells and get ice cream from their carts, you’re not doing L.A. summer right. Here’s an ode to the summertime heroes as they keep rolling through a changing city. Los Angeles Times

Armed robbers have been targeting L.A.’s vulnerable street food vendors in a wave of violent thefts. More than 20 robberies have been reported and police say many could be connected. Food vendors who spoke to Times reporters say they’re afraid of becoming victims but can’t afford not to work. Los Angeles Times


Ex-cop targeted estranged wife in deadly Orange County biker bar shooting (2)

President Joe Biden leaves Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church after attending Mass in Zephyr Cove, Nev.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Thousands are vacationing at Lake Tahoe this summer, including President Biden and his family. His high-profile trip comes as locals mull how to preserve the mountain community’s natural splendor while also keeping an ample flow of touristsand their money. Los Angeles Times

Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers will soon vote on a possible strike. Leaders from a coalition of unions representing roughly 80,000 workers in California and across the country say the healthcare provider has understaffed facilities and failed to bargain with them in good faith. Los Angeles Times


Ex-cop targeted estranged wife in deadly Orange County biker bar shooting (3)

Former President Trump surrendered and was booked at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta.

(Fulton County Sheriff’s Office via Associated Press)

“Unprecedented” is a word we hear a lot to describe former President Donald Trump. The latest first for the 2024 GOP frontrunner: first U.S. president with a mugshot. Trump surrendered to authorities in Georgia on Thursday night following his indictment last week (his fourth, if we’re still counting) on accusations he conspired to overturn the 2020 election. Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Justice Department is suing SpaceX, alleging the Hawthorne-based company discriminated against refugees and people granted asylum. A federal investigation determined that company recruiters and “high-level officials” discouraged asylees and refugees from applying for jobs, which violated federal law. Los Angeles Times

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With wildfires growing more intense, California’s fire agency is trying out a new tool: artificial intelligence. Cal Fire officials are using an AI system that monitors camera feeds throughout the state to detect fires. Los Angeles Times

California enacted a composting law last year, but progress has been uneven, as many jurisdictions haven’t fully complied with the organic waste rules. A state commission has recommended a “temporary pause” to adjust regulations and boost public awareness, but some state and environmental leaders see that as counterproductive. Los Angeles Times


“Stand and Deliver,” starring Edward James Olmos as an L.A. educator who teaches calculus to his underprivileged Latino students, turned 35 this year. Contributor JP Brammer rewatched the film — part of what he calls the “Holy Chicano Trinity” — and explored how it holds up decades later. De Los

When they returned home after serving in World War II, Latino Americans in Fresno faced discrimination and were excluded from organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars. So they built their own. Members are fundraising to keep the post open after its roof collapsed last month. The Fresno Bee

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Today’s California landmark is from Andrew Good of Pasadena: The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a massive mural along a flood control channel in L.A.’s Valley Glen neighborhood.

Ex-cop targeted estranged wife in deadly Orange County biker bar shooting (4)

A section of the Great Wall of Los Angeles, a massive mural along a flood control channel in L.A.’s Valley Glen neighborhood.

(Andrew Good)

Andrew writes:

There are bigger and better landmarks, but I love the history it captures of Southern California. It features the voices of those at the margins of our history textbooks and was developed as part of a democratic project that involved neighborhood school kids. The fact that it also is being expanded raises the question of California’s future: How do we want to remember its history? Who is included? What are the milestones worth preserving?

We’re running low on new landmark submissions. Help us out! (But please note: We’re all stocked up on Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Joshua Tree and lighthouses ... so many lighthouses.)

Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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