© 2018 by MediaSource. Tragedy in Thousand Oaks

WRITTEN, FILMED, CREATED, EDITED
AND PRODUCED BY

EVELYN PALMER

The Sigma Delta Chi Award in Journalism

Mass shooting kills 12 at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks

Suspected Gunman Confirmed Dead

            By  EVELYN PALMER |  Nov 8, 2018 12:53 pm  |  Updated Nov 16, 2018 10:23 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousand Oaks has been called one of the safest towns in America but that image has sadly been shattered after a lone gunman opened fire and killed 12 innocent people at the Borderline Bar & Grill late Wednesday night at 11:20 p.m. Pacific time, authorities said.

 

The town is the second-largest in Ventura County, 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Police responded to the Borderline Bar & Grill after receiving calls of an active shooter. Ventura County Sheriff's Department PIO Garo Kuredjian said more than two hundred people were inside when the deadly massacre happened.

 

"Right now we are processing the scene at the Borderline. We are going step by step to see what it is that happened and we're hoping to create a timeline of what happened before during and after the shooting," said Kuredjian. 

 

The dead included Deputy Sheriff Ron Helus, age 54, who arrived first on the scene, ran inside and was fatally struck when he exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Ventura County Sheriff's Office said the shooter, identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a former Marine and Newbury Park resident - armed with a 45-caliber handgun with an illegal extended magazine - is also dead. Authorities believe that Long took his own life.

 

CNN reports that the Marine veteran often visited the site of the shooting.

According to multiple survivors, the bar was a favorite among young adults for its country western themed college night. Those inside the bar say at the time of the deadly rampage, many people had flocked to the dance floor for line-dancing lessons being offered at the Borderline.

 

"Just feel really sorry for all those families that have to deal with their kids in here just having fun and now they're just gone," said Alexa Brevig who had come to the Borderline with some family members to celebrate her 18th birthday. Alexa's mom, Lori Brevig, arrived at the scene shortly after the massacre to learn the fate of three of her kids who had been inside at the time of the shooting. The elder Breving said, "They had blood all over them it was just really traumatizing."

 

Witnesses inside the bar described the scene as chaotic and shared stories of panic and horror when the gunfire erupted. Others detailed heroic stories of survival. Taylor Young who survived the mass shooting by running away from the Borderline said, “I knew when the smoke bomb went off and it was silent that he was going to reload and I knew that was our opportunity. We were going to run and get hit, we were going to run and make it, or we were going to sit in duck and wait for him to come to us.” 

 

Patrons in the crowded bar experienced terror for more than 3 minutes of random shooting where some hid in the bathrooms, while others broke windows to escape, and ran to safety - some ran to nearby businesses, including a nearby gas station where many took cover. “We hid in the bathroom. We could hear footsteps. We heard all fires, gunshots, all rounds, we were in there for the whole thing until the last shot when he killed himself, I assume it’s when he killed himself, and then SWAT came in and got us,” explained Makena Cornelison, a student who had been in the bar that evening with friend Ben Campbell. 

 

“The feelings are indescribable it’s a feeling of shock, not real, and you don’t know if you’re actually going through this or not,” said Officer Miguel Gonzalez of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. "I believe when something like this happens it hits hard you always think it happens in other areas but not in my jurisdiction. And, the city of Thousand Oaks being thought of as one of the safest cities in the state and in the nation it's definitely a big surprise to us, its something that's hard to swallow," Gonzalez added.

 

In all 13 people were killed and 22 others were injured in the mass shooting. The motive for the massacre is not known. 

 

 

 
 

Facebook/Ventura County Sheriff

Sergeant Ronald "Ron" Helus, 

54, was on the phone with his wife Karen when he got the call about a shooting taking place at the Borderline Bar & Grill. He told his wife he loved her and hung up the phone, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

 

That was the last time that anyone heard from him.

 

Authorities say the deputy sergeant and a California Highway Patrol Officer arrived at the scene within three minutes of receiving reports of the shooting. After Helus made entry into the crowded bar he was immediately confronted by the shooter and severely wounded from the ambush. He later died at a local hospital from his injuries.

 

Helus was an FBI certified firearms instructor and a POST (Peace Officer's Standards and Training) instructor with thousands of hours of specialized training. He had planned to pursue a doctorate degree in the near future, according to his LinkedIn page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Meek, 23, sometimes worked as a bouncer and promoter at the Borderline Bar & Grill, reports the LA Times. Meek was a recent graduate of California Lutheran University.

 

The school issued the following statement:

 

"The Cal Lutheran community is filled with sorrow over the violent events that took place last night a few miles from campus in Thousand Oaks. Sadly, we have learned from the family that a recent graduate, Justin Meek, is one of the precious lives cut short in this tragedy. Meek heroically saved lives in the incident."

 

Alaina Housley, 18, was an English major and member of the university choir at Pepperdine University in Malibu. The Freshman from Napa Valley was following in her parents' footsteps attending the university where both had graduated, as well as her aunt and uncle, actress Tamera Mowry-Housley and her husband former Fox News correspondent Adam Housley. Her family and friends had pleaded with everyone to help find the "missing" college student. 

 

According to her family, Housley had planned to spend her sophomore year studying abroad at Pepperdine's campus in Florence, Italy.

 

Pepperdine issued the following statement: 

 

"We are touched deeply and indelibly by this loss to our community and Alaina’s loving family,” said Pepperdine president Andrew K. Benton. “Those who knew her loved her; she completed our campus family and made us better. We hope now for peace and eventual resolution in this terrible event and we embrace her family with all of our strength.”

Cody Coffman, 22, was a loved son who was about to welcome a new baby sister on the 29th of this month, according to his father Jason Coffman who said that his last words to Cody before he headed out to the Borderline were, "Son, I love you."

 

In an emotional outcry that went viral and was heard around the world, Coffman announced Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, that his son was killed in the Borderline mass shooting in Thousand Oaks the night before. 

 

At a press conference, Coffman said of his beloved first born son, "Cody was the big brother that my kids need." He went on to say that, "Cody leaves behind a legacy of love and laughter. Son, I love you so much" he added, as he fought back tears.

 

The elder Coffman said that Cody had just celebrated his birthday and had planned to enlist in the military.

 

 

 

Kristina Kaylee Morisette, 20, loved country music, was from Simi Valley, and attended Simi Valley High School, according to her Facebook page.   

 

Morisette worked at the Borderline as a cashier at the bar and according to her family, Morisette was working Wednesday night when she was murdered. Survivors stated that the gunman shot a young woman standing behind the counter just inside the door upon entering the bar. Kristina Morisette was likely that person. The LA Times reports at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, her parents learned their youngest child had died.

 

A Morisette acquaintance who goes by the name of Cianna Charlene on Instagram posted this message to honor the slain bar worker: " My angel girl, I’m at a loss of words. I still don’t want to believe your gone. I wish I was there for you during your final moments. It’s unfair that you had to suffer. You didn’t deserve this. You were young and beautiful and had such a long life ahead of you. I’m so glad how close we became over the year. We shared so many laughs and memories and I don’t think I'm ever going to accept you being gone. You became part of my BL Family and that will be forever. I love you baby girl. Rest In Peace my sweet angel." 

Telemachus "Tel" Orfanos, 27, reportedly worked at the Infiniti car dealership in Thousand Oaks in their customer relations department. Known as Tel, he graduated from Thousand Oaks High School and had attended Moorpark College. 

His mother Sharon Schmidt-Orfanos, overcome with grief by another mass shooting, confirmed that her oldest child had survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre in Las Vegas only to be slain in his hometown of Thousand Oaks at the Borderline one year later.

In a now-viral statement to KABC-TV in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, Sharon in a heart-wrenching interview said, " I don't want prayers, I don't want thoughts. I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns." the distraught mother stated.

According to his Facebook profile, he was a Navy veteran. His father Marc told KNBC that his son had served in the Navy from 2011-2014. The elder Orfanos also shared that his son loved to go to the popular Western-style bar and go line dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

Jake Dunham, 21, died at the Borderline along with his best friend Blake Dingman, according to the family. The Newbury Park resident was an off-roading enthusiast.

 

During the chaos as the tragic events unfolded Wednesday night, Dunham's father Ken tried to reach his son by phone repeatedly. At 2:00 a.m. Thursday the elder Dunham told NBC News that "He [Jake] always answers his phone. I keep calling it but there’s no answer. It just keeps ringing out."

 

The family soon learned that Jake did 

not survive the massacre at the Thousand Oaks bar.

 

Dunham's sister, Alexis Dunham, asked for privacy on her Facebook page to let the family grieve, saying "these last days have completely shattered us."

 

 

Blake Dingham, 21, was shot and killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill. Dunham had been with his best friend Jake Dunham, who was also murdered, according to a family source.

In an Instagram post, Blakes' brother, Aidan Dingman, wrote "Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. Last night my life was changed forever. 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."

 

Blake's mother Lorrie Dingman said in an email "No gathering was complete without Blake. His laughter and smile were so special and whenever you talked to him, he was genuinely interested in you." 

 

The Newbury Park resident who played baseball at Hillcrest Christian High School was an off-roading enthusiast.

"He was confident, talented, caring and had a huge heart," Lorrie added.

Noel Sparks, 21, was described as "sweet" and "beautiful" by those who knew her well. Sparks death was confirmed by United Methodist Church Westlake Village who released this statement on Facebook: "It is with heavy hearts that we notify you that Noel Sparks was among the victims of last night's shooting. We grieve with Tony Sparks and Wendy Anderson." 

 

Sparks was a student at Moorpark College in Ventura County. The school released the following statement: The Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) mourns the passing of Moorpark College student Noel Sparks, who was confirmed as one of the victims from the recent shooting in Thousand Oaks. Also among the victims is former Moorpark College student Telemachus Orfanos, who attended Moorpark College as recently as 2010; and Blake Dingman, a Ventura College student. VCCCD and Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges mourn the lives of those lost including Ventura County Sergeant Ron Helus whose heroic actions saved countless lives.

 

"We are deeply saddened. This incident was an immeasurable loss for our community with a rippling impact felt by all of us," stated Chancellor Greg Gillespie. 

 

Sean Adler, 48, was from and lived in Simi Valley, California, according to his Facebook page.

 

The former Simi Valley High School Wrestling coach was working at the Borderline Bar & Grill "to earn extra money," according to his sister Valerie Adler who spoke to NBC Los Angeles. “From what I understand, Sean tried to disarm the shooter. That is typical of Sean," she said. "He was a protector, always sticking up for people."

 

Valerie added about her brother, "He was a caring, compassionate individual.” 

 

Adler studied personal training and fitness at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He had previously operated Empower Personal Fitness & Self Defense in Simi Valley where he offered personal fitness and self-defense training in addition to anti-bullying training for kids,  according to his LinkedIn page.

 

Adler is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 12 and 17.

 

Mark "Marky" Meza Jr., 20, was a busboy and food runner at the Borderline Bar & Grill, according to his family who released a statement to KEYT. "Marky was a loving and wonderful young man who was full of life and ambition," the family shared. 

 

“His family is devastated by his loss," the statement said.

 

The Santa Barbara native was less than two weeks shy of his 21st birthday. “Marky would have turned 21 on November 19" according to the Meza family, "who asks for peace and respect at this time to allow them to grieve privately.”

Daniel Manrique, 33, was a former Marine sergeant who reportedly helped emotionally scarred veterans get back on their feet. Sources close to Manrique say the Marine Corps veteran started the Ventura County chapter of Team Red, White and Blue in 2014 to help fellow veterans make the transition from military to civilian life.

 

Manrique was at the Borderline Bar & Grill meeting other members of the military in support when he was shot and killed, according to several of his friends.

 

His LinkedIn page says that Manrique studied Management Studies at Norwich University. He earned his BS in Arts, Entertainment, and Science from Full Sail University in 2010. He went on to earn his MS in the same discipline.

 

On Thursday, Daniel’s brother Marcos Manrique took to Instagram with a post that read, “Devastated, angry, lost. Last night a gunman opened fire at a bar in my hometown and my brother was a victim of a senseless crime. My brother was a veteran who wanted to help fellow recovering veterans in re-entering society and gave his all to supporting veteran mental health. He ran in to help people escape the violence and ultimately gave his life protecting others. Describing the pain would not do it justice. I’ll be remembering a hero, a brother, and a role model. Semper Fidelis.”

Photos Courtesy Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn/Ventura County Sheriff

Borderline Tragedy: The 12 lives lost in Mass Shooting at Thousand Oaks Bar

By  EVELYN PALMER |  Nov 9, 2018 12:04 pm  |  Updated Nov 9, 2018 8:12 pm
Ventura County Sheriff's Office confirmed that deputy sergeant Ron Helus died in the massacre. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean had described Helus as a friend. He said of Helus, "He knew the risks, but he knew, like we all do, why we serve. Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant. He was totally committed. He gave his all. And tonight… he died a hero. He went in to save lives, to save other people. There’s just no way to describe this. It saddens us all and it tears at our hearts.” 
 
Ventura County Medical Examiner confirmed the identity of all 12 victims. The other 11 victims have also been identified. They are Jake Dunham, Kristina Marisette, Mark Meza Jr., Sean Adler, Noel Sparks, Justin Meeks, Blake Dingman, Daniel Manrique, Cody Coffman, Telemachus Orfanos and Alaina Housley.
 
Condolences have been pouring in for the slain victims, especially via social media on the victims' personal pages.  People from around the world have been taking to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to express their sympathy to the victims' family and friends. Since most of the victims were students, many of the local colleges and universities are offering support to students through the university's counseling center, according to multiple university websites.
 
Many vigils are being held to honor the slain victims including one where thousands of mourners gathered outside the Civic Arts Plaza next to City Hall in Thousand Oaks on last evening. 
 
Many of the slain bar-goers were full of heroism and have been praised for giving their life to protect others. Here is a little bit more about each of the victims.

Twelve lives were cut short Wednesday at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California when a man entered with a gun and start firing rounds during the weekly country music college dance night. More than 20 others were injured in the attack. 

 

REMEMBERING A HERO

 Ron Helus, heroic sergeant killed in California shooting 

honored by mourners at Westlake Village Funeral

By  EVELYN PALMER |  Nov 15, 2018 3:03 pm  |  Updated Nov 15, 2018 11:19 pm

 

 

Sergeant Ron Helus was honored in a touching memorial Thursday packing all 3,000 seats at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village. Country music superstar Billy Ray Cyrus performed a medley of songs and recording artist Mercy Me sang his hit song "I Can Only Imagine" which was a theme throughout the service.

 

Several people spoke and paid tribute to the 29-year veteran of the police force who was killed in the line of duty at the Borderline Bar & Grill on November 7. During the service Pastor Steve Day said, "If Helus had in any way touched your life to stand," and everyone rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.

 

Helus' niece Lauren Smith, who spoke on behalf of the family, gave an emotional tribute saying "My family's world has been shaken by the loss of a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, a nephew, son and dear friend."

 

One of the most interesting things that we heard during the service was an emotional letter from his wife in which she called him "My hero, my love, my life." At the time of his death, the couple had been together for 31 years and the sergeant had proposed to his wife at the old Charley Brown Restaurant, which would later become known as the Borderline Bar & Grill.

 

"Kind of sad and also kind of beautiful at the same time" Shannon Blanck, a former volunteer with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, stated regarding the coincidence. "He was trying to protect the place where one of the greatest moments of his life ever happened, it's a beautiful story," Blanck added. 

 

As an American flag was raised into the sky Thursday, scores of people lined the streets waving their own flags and grieving silently near Calvary Community Church and through the streets of Westlake Village.

 

Kathy Dunham who lost her son Jake Dunham at the Borderline shooting was among those praising the sergeant during the hour-long procession. "Blake [Dingman] and Jake were together at the Borderline and neither one of them made it," she said. "That's why we're here to show all of our support for this officer, who sacrificed his life to try to save our boys' life and we're so grateful."

 

Fitting for a final goodbye to a hero, the governor, law enforcement from around the country and many in the community came together to honor a great cop, husband and father by all accounts.

 

Frank Payne, a retired law enforcement officer, who traveled with several others from Stanislaus County to attend the service, stated that he had to attend the ceremony. "Never met the sergeant but he's a brother so we have to be here, can't be anywhere else," Payne said. 

 

"His legacy is going to be - being that role model," said Officer Dennis Sliva, who worked with Helus for many years. "Ron's always going to be remembered, this whole department will never forget him."

 

Helus is survived by his wife, Karen, and a grown son, Jordan.

 

Ventura County Sheriff