Remembering lives lost in shooting
In victims’ stories, an array of talents and personalities
The stories of those killed at a bar in suburban Los Angeles show an array of talents and personalities.
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 firstborn 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.
A police officer wears a badge with a mourning strip Friday outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.