'This Is Going To Be Absolutely Heart-Wrenching': The Thousand Oaks Shooting Victims
Updated 4:35 p.m. ET on Friday
The Borderline Bar & Grill could be counted on for a good time.
On some of the more popular nights at the country music dance hall, the crowd inside could be counted on to be in the hundreds. The patrons could be counted on to be wearing plaid, boots, cowboy hats, and — if they were women — short shorts. What could not be counted on was that a gunman, armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun, would begin indiscriminately firing into those throngs of happy people.
But on Wednesday night, a night specifically designed to lure college-age patrons into the venue, that was the horrifying scene that unfolded at the bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
By the end of the violence, 12 people were dead. So was the gunman.
Authorities have not released many of the victims' names, but among those who have been confirmed are nine men and three women. Their ages range from 18 to 54 — a reflection of the crowd drawn to the "College Country Night" at the bar.
Here are some of their stories.
Sgt. Ron Helus, 54, was among the first law enforcement officers to respond to reports of a shooting. He died at a hospital from injuries sustained during a confrontation with the shooter hours earlier.
Alaina Housley, 18, had recently started her freshman year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
For hours after the attack and into the early morning hours of Thursday, Housley's family was desperately seeking information about her.
Housley is the niece of actress Tamera Mowry-Housley and her husband, Adam Housley, a former Fox News reporter.
Shortly after the shooting, Adam Housley said the teen's "Apple Watch and iPhone still showed her location on the dance floor," the LA Times reported over Twitter.
Hours later, the couple confirmed the young woman's death in a statement, writing, "Our hearts are broken."
"Alaina was an incredible young woman with so much life ahead of her and we are devastated that her life was cut short in this manner," the couple added.
Housley's Facebook page says she is from Napa, Calif., and photos on the site include several pictures of her surrounded by a group of friends at what appears to be her graduation from Vintage High School.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the Housley family and ask that our community join us in keeping Alaina's family, friends, and loved ones in their prayers during this incredibly difficult time," Pepperdine University added in a statement.
Cody Coffman, 22, was the oldest son of Jason Coffman, who confirmed his death amid sobs in an interview with reporters.
"This is going to be absolutely heart-wrenching time for me and my family," Jason Coffman said, adding that Cody's younger brothers and soon-to-be born sister would miss him terribly.
He recalled their last conversation as the younger man was leaving for Borderline: "I talked to him last night before he headed out the door. The first thing I said was, 'Please don't drink and drive.' The last thing I said was, 'Son, I love you.' "
Jason Coffman said his son had recently moved in with him, and that Cody had been meeting with recruiters and planned to enlist in the Army, The Sun reported.
He worked at a Camarillo moving company called Attention to Detail.
On Facebook on Thursday, someone from the company had posted a few lines about Cody Coffman. The tribute described him as an "encouraging soul, always smiling and so happy all the time."
"Cody had such a bright future ahead of him," it reads. "He was just weeks away from joining the Army. We know Cody's heart and he sacrificed his own life, to protect the ones around him."
Justin Meek, 23, had recently graduated from Thousand Oaks' California Lutheran University, school officials confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
He died trying to save others, a family member told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
"According to numerous witness accounts, Justin died a HERO saving many lives with no regard for his own life," Meek's mother, Laura Meek, wrote on Facebook, according to the newspaper.
Meek, who is a promoter of the College Country Night at the Borderline Bar & Grill, was at the dance hall with his younger sister. Both were working when the shooter began firing on patrons, Laura Meek said.
One of the most recent photos on Meek's Facebook page shows him at the center of a large group wearing denim overalls, pointy boots and a cut-off sleeved plaid shirt. The photo, dated Sept. 8, appears to have been taken inside the bar.
His profile on the social media site says he worked as a performer, a bouncer and a caregiver. He is originally from Coronado, Calif.
Asante Sefa-Boakye, a longtime friend, referred to Meek as a "teddy bear" who loved country music.
"Ask anyone on the (Coronado) island who knows this kid and they'll say nothing short of how great a guy he is," Sefa-Boakye said. "There's a lot of heartbreak here over the loss of such a warm spirit."
He added, "There's frustration too because he fell victim to the same tragedy that this country has been going through over and over again with no apparent attempt to fix the problem."
Daniel Manrique was a native of Thousand Oaks and had served in Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, Task & Purpose reported.
Jacklyn Pieper, a colleague and childhood friend of Manrique's, said that he arrived at the local bar ahead of his friends and entered just "as all hell broke loose."
The 33-year-old served with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, deploying to Afghanistan in 2007 with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to the outlet.
"His whole plan was to see the world and get leadership experience, and he was able to do that in those four years [in the Corps]," Pieper told Task & Purpose.
He became an active member of the veterans community in Los Angeles upon his return. After leaving the service, he worked for an LA nonprofit that helped provide financial-planning assistance for veterans with mental health diagnoses.
"He talked a lot about the isolation that veterans feel when they return home without continuity or consistency, and he just wanted to extend his [arms] around whoever else felt that," she said.
"His life was about going above and beyond," she said. "His whole life was based around helping others. ... Everything he did was selfless," Pieper told Task & Purpose.
Telemachus "Tel" Orfanos, 27, survived the deadly shooting last year at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
"How ironic right, that my son who is a survivor of Las Vegas and was a bit of a gun enthusiast should be killed this way," Marc Orfanos, Telemachus' father, tells NPR's Leila Fadel.
He said Telemachus was a country music lover. It was the reason he was at the music festival in Las Vegas and why he was at the bar on Wednesday night.
Telemachus was a U.S. Navy veteran who was often referred to by his nickname, "Tel." He loved line-dancing at the Borderline Bar & Grill.
His father said that until gun violence is treated like an epidemic, mass shootings will continue to happen.
"When you have 300 million guns in private hands, more guns than you have in places like Yemen or Syria, there is something seriously wrong," he tells Leila.
Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, Telemachus' mother, also called for stricter gun measures in a video uploaded to Twitter by ABC7.
“I hope to God no one sends me anymore prayers. I want gun control. No more guns!” - mother of shooting victim Telemachus Orfanos. She says he survived the #LasVegasShooting but did not survive the #ThousandOaksMassacre. @ABC7 @ABCNewsLive pic.twitter.com/UMqTY1RATK— Veronica Miracle (@ABC7Veronica) November 8, 2018
"I want gun control and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns," she said.
Noel Sparks, 21, was a student at Moore College.
United Methodist Church Westlake Village confirmed her death in a Facebook post.
"It is with heavy hearts that we notify you that Noel Sparks was among the victims of last night's shooting," said United Methodist on Facebook.
"She was a beautiful soul, I am so thankful for the times she was in my life, especially at my wedding this past October," said Bre Breck, a relative of Sparks, in another Facebook post.
Sean Adler, 48, worked at the Borderline Bar & Grill as a bouncer. He also owned a coffee shop called Rivalry Roasters, which he opened over the summer.
He was a soccer and taekwondo coach.
The Los Angeles Times reported that before Adler changed his career path due to a heart attack, he had planned to join the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"He was someone that went after his dreams, someone who was always trying to find his dreams, someone who connected with many different types of people," Debbie Nieser, a childhood friend, told the Times.
Kristina Morisette, 20, worked at the Borderline Bar.
Morisette, who lived in Simi Valley, was working at the bar's front desk when the gunman walked in and started firing, Thousand Oaks Acorn editor, Kyle Jorrey reported on Twitter.
Martha and Michael Morisette said their daughter had just bought a 2017 Jeep Renegade with the money she earned from the bar.
"We didn't want her life to end, but we don't want her memories now to end, either," Martha Morisette told The Baltimore Sun.
Marky Meza Jr., 20, was less than two weeks shy of his 21st birthday later this month, his family told KEYT-TV.
He was working as a busboy and food runner at the Borderline Bar & Grill when he was shot and killed.
"Marky was a loving and wonderful young man who was full of life and ambition," his family said in a statement, adding that they are devasated by his loss.
His Facebook page indicates Meza lived in Carpenteria, Calif., and that he'd studied photography at Santa Barbara City College.
Blake Dingman, pictured carrying his brother, was passionate about "cars, trucks, motorcycles and off-roading in every way," Kyle Koh, a former classmate and friend, told NPR.
"He was always a good guy and a good friend to me," Koh said. "He was really funny and brought a smile to everybody's face."
Dingman's aunt, Janet Dingman, described the 21-year-old as "a really fun, energetic and loving nephew," in an interview with the Pasadena Star-News.
"We were really proud of him," she added.
On Instagram, Dingman's younger brother Aidan Dingman wrote about feeling overwhelmed by grief. He described how he learned about his brother's death:
"I received news of gunfire at Borderline Bar & Grille from a friend. Which was where my brother was hanging out for the night. Me, my dad, and mom raced to the scene. Or as close as we could get. We tried for hours and hours to get in touch with Blake and got no response. At 12:00 this morning I was informed that my amazing brother was taken down by the shooter as well as his good friend Jake Dunham. Blake, I love you so much and I miss you more than you can imagine."
"Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. Last night my life was changed forever," he added.
Jake Dunham, 21, was good friends with Blake Dingman, and the two embraced the off-roading scene together, Kyle Koh told NPR.
Dunham was at the bar with Blake Dingman.
"As an off-roader, Dunham was the gutsy one," the LA Times reported. "He would drive his giant truck, towing a Ford Ranger. It wasn't long before he'd break the truck after all the hard riding."
"He always tried to convince people to [let him] drive their car. Everyone knew it was a bad idea, but sometimes they'd do it," Dunham's friend, Michael Moses, told the newspaper.
Alexis Dunham, Dunham's sister explained how she learned of his death: "Two nights ago, we were woken up at 1 a.m. to the news that my brother was missing only to find out 11 hours later that he was murdered," she wrote.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.