The lives cut short in bar shoot­ing

In vic­tims’ sto­ries, an ar­ray of tal­ents and per­son­al­i­ties

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Jonathan J. Cooper, Terry Tang and Re­becca Boone

THOU­SAND OAKS, Calif. — One was a vet­eran po­lice of­fi­cer who didn’t hes­i­tate to run to­ward dan­ger. An­other had sur­vived the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory. Oth­ers were an “ex­tremely nice” bus­boy and a Marine vet­eran who ded­i­cated his life to ser­vice, in­clud­ing help­ing other vet­er­ans ad­just to civil­ian life.

The sto­ries of the vic­tims killed in a shoot­ing at a coun­try mu­sic bar in sub­ur­ban Los Angeles on Wed­nes­day night are just start­ing to emerge.

Among the dozen lost, but not in­cluded here, are Blake Ding­man, 21, Jake Dun­ham, 21, and Kristina Morisette, 20.

Ron Helus, a Ven­tura County sher­iff’s sergeant, was talk­ing to his wife when calls started coming in about a shoot­ing at the Border­line Bar and Grill.

“Hey, I got to go han­dle a call. I love you. I’ll talk to you later,” he told her, ac­cord­ing to Sher­iff Ge­off Dean.

It was the last time she would talk to her hus­band.

Helus rushed to­ward the shoot­ing and im­me­di­ately ex­changed fire with the shooter in­side the bar, Dean said. Helus was hit mul­ti­ple times and died at a hospi­tal.

Sgt. Eric Buschow, who said Helus was a friend, de­scribed him as a “cop’s cop.”

Helus took up fly fish­ing a few years ago and loved pur­su­ing the hobby in the Sierra Ne­vada with his grown son, Buschow said.

Cody Coff­man, who had just turned 22, was talk­ing with Army re­cruiters and pre­par­ing to ful­fill his dream of serv­ing his coun­try, said his fa­ther, Ja­son Coff­man, who wept as he told re­porters his first-born son was among the vic­tims.

Cody adored his sib­lings — three broth­ers be­tween ages 6 and 9 — and he couldn’t wait for the birth of a sis­ter, due Nov. 29, said Ja­son Coff­man of Ca­mar­illo.

“Cody was the big brother that my kids need,” he said. “He was so ex­cited to have his first sis­ter and now she’ll never know. ”

He said his son was pas­sion­ate about base­ball, serv­ing as an um­pire for a youth league, and they went fish­ing to­gether.

Justin Meek, a new grad­u­ate of Cal­i­for­nia Lutheran Univer­sity who ma­jored in crim­i­nal jus­tice, cared for chil­dren with spe­cial needs, per­formed as a singer and worked at the Border­line bar.

Since last summer, Meek, 23, had worked for Chan­nel Is­land So­cial Ser­vices as a respite care­giver, sup­port­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, mostly de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, CEO Sharon Fran­cis said.

Meek also toured pro­fes­sion­ally as an a cap­pella singer, said fam­ily friend Pa­trick El­lis, who called Meek a talented mu­si­cian, singer and ath­lete and a “fan­tas­tic hu­man be­ing.”

Meek worked at the bar with his sis­ter and fel­low Cal Lutheran stu­dent, Vic­to­ria Rose Meek, who sur­vived, El­lis said.

Alaina Hous­ley, 18, was a promis­ing stu­dent at Pep­per­dine Univer­sity with plans to study law, her fam­ily said.

Adam Hous­ley, a for­mer Fox News cor­re­spon­dent, and Tam­era Mowry-Hous­ley, an ac­tress known for the 1990s TV se­ries “Sis­ter Sis­ter,” said their niece was killed at the bar where she had gone line danc­ing with friends.

“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 said in a state­ment.

Hous­ley was bright, pop­u­lar and well-loved, a stu­dent who had a 4.5 grade-point av­er­age since ju­nior high school and earned col­lege schol­ar­ships, said her grand­fa­ther, Art Hous­ley.

Noel Sparks, a 21-year-old col­lege stu­dent, loved go­ing to the Border­line Bar and Grill, so friends and fam­ily were not sur­prised when she posted a photo of her­self danc­ing there Wed­nes­day night.

Her aunt Pa­tri­cia Sparks of Mor­ris­town, Tenn. de­scribed Sparks as an “al­laround good girl. She was the kind of girl that if you had friends, you’d want them to marry her.”

Sean Adler, 48, was a se­cu­rity guard at Border­line who would stay late to en­sure peo­ple could get home safely, said Deb­bie Allen, a long­time friend.

The mar­ried fa­ther of two boys died do­ing what he was pas­sion­ate about — pro­tect­ing peo­ple, Allen said.

“He was a very, very big per­son­al­ity and had a very, very gor­geous smile,” she said, adding that he had once con­sid­ered be­com­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

His other pas­sion, she said, was cof­fee. Adler re­cently opened his own cof­fee shop, Ri­valry Roast­ers, in Simi Val­ley, said Phil Eng­lan­der, an­other long­time friend.

Telemachus Or­fanos, 27, lived through the mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas last year only to die in­side Border­line, less than 10 min­utes from his home, ac­cord­ing to his mother, Su­san Sch­midt-Or­fanos.

Or­fanos was a Navy vet­eran with a thick beard, an easy smile and a gla­di­a­tor hel­met tat­too.

Pho­tos on Or­fanos’ Face­book page show the Ea­gle Scout with friends at ball­games or at work. Some pho­tos are em­bel­lished with pa­tri­otic graph­ics and an­other marks the an­niver­sary of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Marky Meza Jr., who was less than two weeks from his 21st birth­day, was work­ing as a bus­boy and food run­ner at the bar when he was killed.

“Marky was a lov­ing and won­der­ful young man who was full of life and am­bi­tion,” the Meza fam­ily said in a state­ment pro­vided to Santa Bar­bara TV sta­tion KEYT.

He was one of the few teenagers who got hired at Sand­piper Lodge in Santa Bar­bara, man­ager Shawn Boteju said.

“He was ex­tremely nice,” Boteju said.

Daniel Man­rique, 33, ded­i­cated his life to ser­vice — as a hospi­tal vol­un­teer, U.S. Marine and man­ager of an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps vet­er­ans ad­just af­ter leav­ing the mil­i­tary.

He was a ra­dio op­er­a­tor de­ployed to Afghanistan in 2007 with the 26th Marine Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit, the Or­ange County Reg­is­ter re­ported.

Af­ter leav­ing the mil­i­tary, Man­rique be­gan vol­un­teer­ing with Team Red White and Blue, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that works to help vet­er­ans avoid iso­la­tion by con­nect­ing them to their com­mu­nity. He was named a re­gional pro­gram man­ager last month.

“The best way I can de­scribe him is as a saint. He truly be­lieved in ser­vice,” friend and busi­ness part­ner Tim O’Brien told the news­pa­per. “Dan was the guy you could rely on if you ran out of gas in the mid­dle of the night.”

The two high school friends were pre­par­ing to open a vet­eran-ori­ented brew­ery and call it “O’brique” — a com­bi­na­tion of their last names.

APU GOMES/GETTY-AFP

A po­lice of­fi­cer wears a badge with a mourn­ing strip Fri­day out­side the Border­line Bar and Grill in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

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