A night out at the Borderline Bar & Grill was a rite of passage for young adults in the Thousand Oaks area.
This was the crowd that filled the Borderline on Wednesday night, when a gunman opened fire, killing 12 people.
Many of those who died were young, in their 20s. There was a college freshman. There was a graduate who had received his degree in May. There was the bar’s sunny cashier. And there were two friends who loved souping up old trucks for off-roading.
Among the others were a longtime sheriff’s deputy who had rushed into the crowded bar to help and a 22-year-old patron who, according to his friends, tried to help others escape, yelling, “Everyone, run!”
If a thread binds the victims, it might be their commitment to service. Several were active volunteers. One was a veteran, a 33-year-old who worked for an organization that helps veterans in their transitions to civilian life.
Three women and nine men were killed. The youngest was 18; the oldest was 54. These are their stories.
Sean Adler, 48, had been a coach with a high school wrestling team in Simi Valley, California, but had recently changed careers. This year he opened a coffee shop called Rivalry Roasters, realizing a long-held dream, one of his childhood friends said. He was also holding down a job as a bouncer at the Borderline Bar & Grill, Royal High School’s wrestling team said.
Adler’s death was confirmed Thursday by his sister. Chris Curtis, an owner of Rivalry Roasters, said Adler had children and had been working at the bar to help pay the bills.
Danny Evans, one of Adler’s childhood best friends, said that although he had not spoken to Adler recently, he recalled that in high school, his friend “was the guy we all wanted to be: handsome, athletic and kind.”
“When we were younger, I was an awkward kid,” Evans said. “I got picked on.”
“And Sean was my protector,” he continued, choking back tears. “He stood up for me, and he showed me the kind of kindnesses I didn’t get from other people. I needed that so badly at that time.”
“I’m so proud to have been his friend,” he added. “It’s devastating that he’s gone.”
Blake Dingman and Jacob Dunham
Blake Dingman and Jacob Dunham, both 21, were close friends and off-roading enthusiasts who chronicled their adventures at local raceways on Instagram.
“Rest In Peace. Shred heaven,” one user wrote on Dunham’s last photo, posted June 8, from the Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino.
Early Friday, Dingman’s younger brother, Aidan, posted a photo of the two of them on Instagram and described rushing to the bar with his parents when they got word of the shooting.
“We tried for hours and hours to get in touch with Blake and got no response,” he wrote. “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. #805strong.”
A local off-roading shop announced that it would hold a memorial for the two friends Monday at a go-kart raceway in Thousand Oaks.
“I know we’re all heartbroken so let’s send them off in a way they’d want!” the shop wrote in an Instagram announcement.
In a Facebook post, Dunham’s sister requested privacy, writing that “these last few days have completely shattered us.”
Cody Gifford-Coffman, of Camarillo, California, had just turned 22 and was planning to join the Army, said his father, Jason Coffman, who confirmed his son’s death in an interview with reporters that aired on CNN.
A friend, Sarah DeSon, 19, said she believed she had survived the shooting because of Gifford-Coffman’s quick reaction. “He was protecting everyone,” DeSon said. “He got up and he just yelled, ‘Everyone, run!'”
Baseball was Gifford-Coffman’s passion. He played on his high school team and was an umpire. He liked spending time with his younger siblings and often went fishing with his father.
“I talked to him last night before he headed out the door,” Jason Coffman said in the interview outside the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, where families had gathered to await information. “First thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’ The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.'”
Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the death toll might have been higher if not for Sgt. Ronald Helus. As the shooting unfolded, Helus ran inside.
“He went in to save lives, to save other people,” Sheriff Geoff Dean said. Before entering the bar, the sheriff said, Helus had a conversation with his wife on the phone.
Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN: “I don’t think there is anything more heroic than what he did.”
Buschow described Helus as “a true cop’s cop.” In 29 years on the force, he worked in various departments, including narcotics and SWAT, his colleague remembered.
“He had a natural instinct going after crooks,” Buschow said. “He did it with enthusiasm and a great deal of intelligence.”
Helus, 54, had been set to retire this year.
He loved being outdoors and fishing with his son in the Sierra Nevada. On his LinkedIn page, he said that in addition to his policing job, he owned a firearms safety training business called Gun Control.
Expressing condolences for those who died in the shooting, Gov. Jerry Brown singled out Helus, who he said “took heroic action to save lives last night.”
On Thursday morning, as Helus’ body was taken from a hospital to the county medical examiner’s office, members of the sheriff’s office accompanied him in a solemn procession.
Alaina Housley, a freshman at Pepperdine University, loved music and soccer.
Housley, 18, of Napa, California, was a graduate of Vintage High School. She had written on Facebook that she planned to major in English literature. She also said she hoped to be accepted into a vocal music program.
Photos on social media showed that she had been a member of her high school choir and performed in a production of “Les Misérables.” She was also involved in an organization, Helping to Introduce Opportunities, that donated soccer gear to young people in the developing world.
Her uncle and aunt, Adam Housley and Tamera Mowry-Housley, confirmed her death in a statement issued by their representatives. On Twitter, Adam Housley called her a “beautiful soul.”
After Pepperdine’s family and alumni weekend last month, Alaina Housley posted on Instagram: “finally got to see my parents” — with two pink hearts.
Daniel Manrique, 33, was a Marine Corps veteran who never stopped working to support other men and women who had served in the U.S. military.
He worked as a program manager for Team RWB, a veterans’ support organization, which confirmed on Thursday that he had died at Borderline.
In a statement, the organization added that Manrique had served as a radio operator with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, and deployed to the Middle East in 2007 with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“Dan’s life was dedicated to serving others, during his military career and beyond,” said John Pinter, the executive director of Team RWB.
In a profile on the organization’s website, Manrique was described as an active member of the Los Angeles area community who enjoyed hiking, biking and photography.
On social media, he posted frequently about his activities, which included climbing a mountain to raise money for veterans, organizing a surfing trip for veterans with disabilities and going to countless sporting events. Manrique was an avid baseball fan who loved the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Justin Meek, 23, graduated from California Lutheran University in May with a degree in criminal justice.
His mother, Laura Lynn Meek, received a bachelor’s degree alongside her son that day, noted an article in the Ventura County Star. She was a veteran who carried the American flag into the ceremony, the article said, while her son sang the national anthem in a quartet.
A spokeswoman for California Lutheran confirmed Meek’s death. Other students were also at the bar, said the spokeswoman, Karin Grennan, and the school had heard from those who had escaped unharmed.
Meek’s Facebook cover photo showed him grinning widely, wearing overalls and a sleeveless plaid shirt, surrounded by other young people at Borderline, the bar where the shooting occurred. It was posted Sept. 8.
The page described Meek as a performer with Goode Time Productions, a small company that produces services at weddings and parties.
Meek was also well known for the work he did for the community. As a caregiver with Channel Islands Social Services in Camarillo, California, he gave in-home support to families with children who had developmental disabilities.
“Justin was an exceptionally kind and gifted young man who always went out of his way to help others,” Sharon Francis, the chief executive of Channel Islands Social Services, said in a statement.
“He went out of his way to provide personalized care, attend their family events, birthday parties, and ensure that every moment he provided with them was meaningful and based on their child’s interests.”
Francis added that he had worked at Borderline as a promoter and a bouncer.
Meek regularly shared ads for Borderline’s College Country night. The day after the deadly shooting last year at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Meek had posted a photo of himself with the hashtag #prayforvegas.
Mark Meza had been working as a busboy and food runner at Borderline when he was killed, just 12 days before his 21st birthday.
“Marky was a loving and wonderful young man who was full of life and ambition,” his family said in a statement to KEYT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara. “His family is devastated by his loss.”
He had graduated from Carpinteria High School and studied at Santa Barbara City College.
“The entire SBCC community mourns this tragic loss of bright, young, promising lives,” a spokeswoman, Luz Reyes-Martin, said in a statement. “We send our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the victims. We are heartbroken to learn of Mark’s death.”
The broad smile of Kristina Morisette, 20, was the first thing customers saw when they entered the Borderline. She worked as a cashier, near the door.
“Her sweet voice was so welcoming, and that was something Borderline customers loved,” said Hannah Williams, 20, a regular at the bar and a friend of Morisette’s since elementary school. “People would always tell her it made their day to see her at the front desk. She would receive little gifts from customers.”
She loved to draw and to cook, often preparing meals for friends. “She was the mom of the group,” Williams said.
Morisette was a passionate fan of country music and dancing, but she didn’t plan on working at the Borderline forever. Shortly before she was killed, she had returned from a trip to Texas, where she had interviewed for an internship working to train police dogs. She admired law enforcement and the military, and loved to buy anything — hats, trinkets — adorned with the American flag.
“She loved her country,” Williams said. “Every part of it.”
When a gunman opened fire at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas last year, Telemachus Orfanos somehow made it through.
It was a brutal experience, his friends thought, never to be repeated.
They were wrong.
“He was killed last night at Borderline,” Susan Orfanos, the mother of the 27-year-old, said in a phone interview Thursday night. “He made it though Las Vegas, he came home. And he didn’t come home last night, and the two words I want you to write are: gun control. Right now — so that no one else goes through this. Can you do that? Can you do that for me? Gun control.”
She then hung up the phone.
Noel Sparks had her hands in a little bit of everything at the church she grew up in with her family.
She was an all-around creative, said Nancy Moravec, the former director of Christian life at the United Methodist Church of Westlake Village, where she met Sparks when she was a child.
Over the years, Moravec said, she watched as Sparks got involved in just about every aspect of the church, from its youth program to the church camps she would later return to as a counselor. She sang in the choir, played the cello, made pottery and danced.
“She was a beautiful dancer,” Moravec recalled.
The Rev. Walter Dilg, the senior pastor of the church, confirmed in a telephone interview Thursday that Sparks had died in the shooting. He said he had learned of her death from her parents, who are still members of the church.
Moravec, 74, described Sparks as “loving, kind and generous.” Sparks, 21, had been a student at Moorpark College.
“If you had children, you wanted Noel to be one of their friends,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.