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“Cold beer…Good food…Children welcome.”

The Cook's Corner Shooting

By Amy Irene White

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 “Cold beer…Good food…Children welcome” is a sign that welcomes visitors to Cook’s Corner, a family friendly biker bar nestled in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County, California.

Cook's Corner is named after Andrew Jackson Cook, who acquired the land on which the roadhouse now sat in 1884. In 1926, his son, Earl, turned an old cabin on the property into an eatery for locals. In 1933 when prohibition ended, Cook's Corner Cabin eatery was converted into a bar. Over the years, their clientele has transformed from coal miners to bikers… Cook’s has become popular for two things…. Their spaghetti nights, and their endless, tireless support of the biker community. They are known for hosting charity rides, from 9/11 to Children’s Hospitals.

Families and regulars were enjoying heaping plates of pasta and cold beers, listening to the M Street band play Fleetwood Mac’s song “Rhiannon” at Cook’s Corner on August 23rd, when terror came right through the door.

Authorities said John Snowling, armed with multiple weapons, went to Cook’s Corner looking for his estranged wife, who had filed for divorce nine months earlier. He walked up to her, and without “a discussion, dialogue or an argument,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said, “he immediately fired upon her, striking her once.”

The 59-year-old John Snowling, a retired sergeant from the Ventura Police Department, walked into the bar with a gun in each hand, and shot his estranged wife, Marie, in the jaw before turning his gun on her friend Tonya Clark, who was there celebrating her birthday. Tonya was able to stagger outside and get to the roadway, but collapsed and was later pronounced dead. She was the mother of two sons and a daughter.

Snowling then started firing randomly at other patrons inside the bar and then went outside and shot others there as well, including Glen Sprowl Jr., 53, of Stanton, who tried to confront him.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said a man approached the shooter when he was grabbing more guns from his truck, and was killed by Snowling.
Witnesses have told his family that it was Glen Sprowl who tried to stop the shooter. Glen was a good friend, a hard worker, and the father of three kids, the youngest only 7 years old.

Snowling was not to be deterred as he headed to his truck to retrieve two more weapons, another handgun and a shotgun. People were screaming and scrambling to hide or get away as the rogue cop fired again and again.

As soon as he heard gunshots, Lake Forest resident Ryan Guidus, 36, reached down, unlatched his 7-month-old daughter from her stroller, and started running with her in his arms. He and his mother-in-law ran onto the patio and into the nearby bushes and trees. Guidus was hiding with other people who started screaming that the gunman was coming up the other side of Cook’s. The father yelled for everyone to keep calm and to stop drawing attention to their hideout.

Guidus was looking for a way out. He asked another diner to hold his daughter as he slid down the side of the nearby ravine where he was assisted by mountain bikers. The man handed Guidus’ baby back to him and he sprinted down the road clutching his infant.

Wounded band member recalled the 'horror' to ABC7

The entire ordeal felt like it went on for 30 minutes, Guidus said, but after he spoke with the officers, he learned the shooting had lasted less than five minutes.

At that point, deputies arrived and confronted Snowling, fatally shooting him. Seven deputies were involved in that encounter and none of them were injured. Investigators later recovered four weapons: a .380 pistol, .38 revolver, .25 pistol and a shotgun. Barnes said Snowling had legally acquired all four. The gunman, retired police sergeant John Snowling, was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene.

Snowling killed three people, and also wounded six people in the shooting, including two band members as well as his estranged wife Marie.

Among the wounded were two members of the band M Street, who were playing on stage at Cook's Corner when Snowling walked in, opening fire with a gun in each hand.

Bass player Dave Stretch was wounded in the hip. His bandmate was struck in the arm. He talked to ABC7 News about what it was like.

Stretch said it was a surreal scene when Snowling walked in and it took him a second to comprehend what was happening as he continued to play. "I'm starting to look at the room and I feel like somebody punches me in the hip," Stretch said. "And I knew exactly at that moment what had happened, like full-on what this was."
There was confusion and terror in the bar. He first ran outside, but heard gunfire out there, so he ran back inside the bar and hid. At one point, he recalled, he picked up a barstool thinking he would attack the shooter if he came back inside. After the chaos settled, with the gunman shot to death by Orange County sheriff’s deputies, three bar patrons would be left dead and six wounded.
On Friday, Orange County sheriff’s officials identified Tonya and Glen as two victims who were killed at Cook’s Corner during the bar’s famed $8 all-you-can-eat spaghetti night. The third victim, John Leehey, 67, of Irvine, was identified a day earlier. Leehey was a landscape architect and father of three grown sons.

John Leehey, 67, was killed in the mass shooting on Weds., Aug 23, 2023 at Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon. (Courtesy of JML Planning Consultancy)

“There was not a discussion, dialogue or an argument,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Thursday. Authorities said Snowling used two weapons — pistols or revolvers — in the shooting and had two other firearms in a Ford F-250 truck parked outside.

Providence Mission Hospital said three of the six patients it treated have been released. A fourth patient, a man who was shot in the arm, had surgery and a fifth patient, a man who had been shot in the chest, remained in critical condition.

Marie Snowling, was initially treated at Providence Mission Hospital Wednesday before being transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.. survived the attack.

Mass shootings are always horrific tragedies that forever change the landscape and history of a place… and we always ask why it happened. When I saw that John Snowling had been a policeman since the mid 80s in Ventura… I reached out to someone especially well versed in Ventura bikers and cops for answers.

George Christie, Jr. served as president of the Ventura, California chapter of the Hells Angels between 1978 and 2011. He is the longest-serving chapter president in the club's history. Christie was also a national spokesman for the Hells Angels before they parted ways… and George did indeed remember John Snowling.

“I knew the Sergeant well,” said Christie. “He had a personal problem with Hells Angels, but seemed to target the younger members. He was unnecessarily aggressive. I tried to resolve the problem through direct dialogue, but he seemed to put up an impenetrable wall. I became concerned enough to contact the chief. The Ventura Hells Angels had an open line of communication with the Ventura police department. I am not sure what measures were taken, but it seemed to resolve our problem with this particular officer. “

According to notorious George, who now spends his days doing podcasts and books since he parted ways with the Angels, there was definitely an underlying hatred of bikers in Snowling’s way of thinking. We can only contemplate as to that being the reason why he snapped and went on a killing spree when his estranged wife took up with hanging out at a biker bar… especially knowing he purchased a new Harley a few days before he pissed on that thin blue line he was sworn to uphold and protect.

We here at Bikernet send our condolences to the families, and to Cook’s Corner for this tragic event… and we pray you are all able to recover and carry on and survive. God bless y’all.

-Amy Irene White
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