‘I miss you more than you can imag­ine’: Grief af­ter an­other mass shoot­ing

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Twelve peo­ple were killed when a gun­man opened fire in­side a crowded bar late Wed­nes­day in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, in­clud­ing a sher­iff ’s deputy who had rushed in­side to help. Here are the sto­ries of some of the vic­tims.

Sean Adler, 48

Sean Adler had his heart set on be­com­ing a deputy with the Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to a story about him in the Simi Val­ley Acorn news­pa­per. But then he had a heart at­tack af­ter run­ning a cou­ple of miles dur­ing academy train­ing last year.

So at 48, ac­cord­ing to the Acorn, he chased a new dream: be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur. He and a busi­ness part­ner opened a cof­fee shop in Simi Val­ley, Calif. Less than a month ago, Ri­valry Roast­ers held its grand open­ing.

“When you’re pas­sion­ate about what you do, it doesn’t feel like work; that’s what Ri­valry Roast­ers is for me,” Adler told the Val­ley Acorn last month. “It’s not al­ways easy to make ends meet, and I even work se­cu­rity at bars at night to help cover ex­penses, but I love what I’m do­ing.”

One of those bars where he worked as a bouncer: Border­line Bar & Grill.

The wrestling team at Royal High School in the Simi Val­ley Uni­fied School Dis­trict posted Thurs­day af­ter­noon on Face­book that Adler had been killed at Border­line. “Sean was our strength coach a few years back. He was tran­si­tion­ing ca­reers and still made time for our team. He trav­eled with us through some of the rough­est times we had as a pro­gram. He was pos­i­tive, mo­ti­va­tional, and truly wanted the best for the peo­ple around him.”

Simi Val­ley High School’s wrestling coach, Chad David­son, said he coached with Adler at Royal High when they were both as­sis­tants. “He was an awe­some guy,” David­son said. Ev­ery­one al­ways says, “You couldn’t have met a nicer guy” about peo­ple, he said. “But for Sean, that was ac­tu­ally true. Al­ways had a smile on his face and al­ways ready to start a con­ver­sa­tion.

“Sean has chil­dren, who he loved dearly and bragged about. They are who I am fer­vently pray­ing for.” —Su­san Svr­luga

Blake Ding­man, 21

His voice quiet and crack­ing, Dan Ding­man said his fam­ily found out late Thurs­day that their 21-year-old son — Blake Ding­man — died in the Thou­sand Oaks shoot­ing.

“It’s just so bru­tal,” the fa­ther said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “We are not do­ing well. His younger si­b­ling is fi­nally asleep af­ter a long, long night.”

Ding­man played high school base­ball at Hill­crest Chris­tian School in Thou­sand Oaks, his fam­ily said. He also loved of­froad­ing and was de­scribed as “easy­go­ing and fun-lov­ing and a great ath­lete.”

His brother, Ai­dan, who is 18, wrote in an In­sta­gram post, “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. #805strong.”

The two broth­ers were very close, Dan Ding­man said.

The fam­ily gath­ered Fri­day morn­ing, tak­ing in the loss. Ding­man’s great-aunt, Janet Ding­man of Thou­sand Oaks, de­scribed him as “some­one you were al­ways proud of. Such a fun, lov­ing per­son. We are just in a hor­ri­ble place.” —Emily Wax-Thibodeaux

Ja­cob Dun­ham, 21

Ja­cob Dun­ham was the guy who took a tense sit­u­a­tion and made it funny. He strug­gled in his young life, with he­mo­philia and blind­ness in one eye, said his mother, Kathy Dun­ham. “Even though he had all th­ese ob­sta­cles, he did ev­ery­thing to the fullest.”

His mother said her son’s death at Border­line Bar & Grill was made all the worse by the de­tails she learned from the coro­ner. Dun­ham, out for the night with his close friend, Blake Ding­man, was hid­ing in a bath­room stall when the gun­man found him. “He tried. He tried to hide. That makes it even worse,” she said.

In life, Dun­ham was a “won­der­ful kid,” his mother said. “He’s the first one to get your back.”

He lived with his par­ents and sis­ter, a tightknit fam­ily, she said. His fa­vorite things to do: rid­ing dirt bikes, work­ing on his truck and hang­ing out with friends. He even re­built a diesel truck us­ing only in­struc­tions from the In­ter­net — and he loved to race it. Over the Fourth of July hol­i­day this year, she said, he went to the lake with bud­dies, took out a ski boat and hoisted a huge Amer­i­can flag.

A friend, Macken­zie Souser, said she was a re­cent ad­di­tion to Dun­ham’s group of friends and that he made her feel wel­come from the start. “His lit­tle jokes made ev­ery­one feel loved and in­cluded,” she said.

She re­mem­bered once when a group of friends got back from a road trip — the trip had been Dun­ham and Ding­man’s idea. They were “su­per hun­gry,” and there was a ton of traf­fic. No one was in a par­tic­u­larly good mood as they pulled up, ex­hausted and hag­gard, into a chicken joint. Dun­ham made the whole crew laugh when he put his thumbs into his belt loops and pro­claimed, “Wel­come to the [ex­ple­tive] Santa Bar­bara Chicken Ranch.”

“We spent the whole time jok­ing how there’s no chicken there,” she said.

He was al­ways jok­ing as a child, too, his mother said. Once, about age 12, he came run­ning home to tell her, “The cops are com­ing! The cops are com­ing!” Upon ques­tion­ing, he ex­plained that there was a couch cush­ion on fire in a field and then, sud­denly, there were sirens.

“He said, ‘Well, Mom, we set it on fire.’ ” Why? “‘Well, we were cold,’ ” she re­called him say­ing. (At the time, she said, it was about 89 de­grees out.) Jake added that they had tried to put the fire out. How? “We peed on it.”

An­other fam­ily story: When he was 12, he tried to buy con­doms at the 7-Eleven, just as a joke.

“If there’s any­thing crazy out there no one else will do, Jake will be the one to in­sti­gate it or ac­ti­vate it. Jake was the party starter.”

—Laura Meck­ler

Mark Meza, 20

Mark Meza was a friendly, out­go­ing em­ployee who had a great rap­port with ev­ery­one at the Sand­piper Lodge, a Santa Bar­bara, Calif., ho­tel where he worked as a house­keeper. “He was an ex­tremely nice young man, ex­tremely per­son­able,” said Shawn Boteju, the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager.

Boteju re­mem­bered how happy Meza was when he re­ceived a hov­er­board as a gift from his fa­ther, and how well Meza learned to use it. “It’s a shock — such a young guy.”

On a Face­book page, Meza wrote that he had stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at Santa Bar­bara City Col­lege. Luz Reyes-Mar­tin, a col­lege spokes­woman, said Meza last stud­ied there in 2014. “The en­tire [Santa Bar­bara City Col­lege] com­mu­nity mourns this tragic loss of bright, young, promis­ing lives. We send our deep­est sym­pa­thies to the friends and fam­ily of the vic­tims. We are heart­bro­ken to learn of Mark’s death.”

Heather Ntem, an em­ployee with the Kelly Marsh Team at Cor­ner­stone Home Lend­ing, wrote in an email, “The fam­ily asks for pri­vacy dur­ing this time. They are grate­ful for the love, sup­port, and prayers from their fam­ily, friends, and com­mu­nity.”

—Su­san Svr­luga

Kristina Morisette, 20

Bran­don Bohn­ing re­mem­bers Kristina Morisette all the way back to kinder­garten. They were good friends, he said, through el­e­men­tary school and saw each other reg­u­larly since then.

“She was the cool girl in the group,” he said. “She had a lot of friends. Ev­ery time I saw her, she was al­ways just so friendly, so car­ing. She just brought a good vibe ev­ery­where she went.”

He said she worked as a cashier at Border­line Bar & Grill, and wit­nesses said she was prob­a­bly the first per­son the shooter saw af­ter en­ter­ing the bar.

“She had a lot of gen­uine friends and a lot of friends who cared about her,” he said.

Joseph Kaes­berg, 19, a friend since high school, re­called that Morisette was al­ways there when friends needed her — like the time he had to put down his dog. Morisette called and texted to check on Kaes­berg and asked if he wanted to grab lunch or din­ner, just to get out of the house.

“She was al­ways so full of life, so happy, such a pos­i­tive per­son, al­ways brought so much en­joy­ment and peace to ev­ery­thing,” he said.

She had just re­turned from Texas a few days ago, where she was in­ter­view­ing for an in­tern­ship train­ing po­lice dogs, Kaes­berg said. “She told some of us it went re­ally well,” he said.

—Laura Meck­ler

Telemachus Or­fanos, 27

Telemachus Or­fanos was a Navy vet­eran who sur­vived last year’s mass shoot­ing at a coun­try­mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas only to per­ish in a hail of bul­lets at the Border­line Bar & Grill.

His fa­ther, Marc Or­fanos, de­scribed his son, who went by “Tel,” as a gre­gar­i­ous and kind­hearted young man who made friends eas­ily and tra­versed the globe in search of new ex­pe­ri­ences.

He was an Ea­gle Scout, the high­est rank in the Boy Scout­ing pro­gram, and played the tuba in el­e­men­tary school. In high school, he en­joyed his­tory.

Two years af­ter his 2009 grad­u­a­tion from Thou­sand Oaks High School, Or­fanos went into the Navy. He was sta­tioned on Whid­bey Is­land, in Wash­ing­ton state, and in the Far East, where crews were “trolling for Chi­nese and North Korean sub­marines,” his fa­ther said. He went as far north as the north­ern part of the Sea of Ja­pan and all the way down to In­done­sia.

“He wanted to serve his coun­try,” his fa­ther said. “And he wanted to see the world.”

When he was in train­ing in San Diego, he and his friends would hop on the train and head up to Thou­sand Oaks to stay at his fam­ily’s home for the week­end. “His bud­dies would crash on the floor,” re­called his 63-year-old fa­ther, a semire­tired sub­sti­tute teacher.

Or­fanos en­listed in 2011 and served as a sonar tech­ni­cian sur­face sea­man, ac­cord­ing to a spokes­woman for the U.S. Navy. He left the ser­vice in De­cem­ber 2013 and was awarded a Na­tional De­fense Ser­vice Medal, a Global War on Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice Medal and a Pis­tol Marks­man­ship Rib­bon.

Or­fanos is also sur­vived by his mother and his younger brother.

Af­ter about two-and-a-half years in the Navy, Or­fanos moved home to Thou­sand Oaks, where he had lived most of his life. He be­gan work at a lo­cal In­finiti deal­er­ship.

He liked a va­ri­ety of mu­sic, in­clud­ing coun­try mu­sic, his fa­ther said. He es­pe­cially en­joyed the “sense of ca­ma­raderie” at Border­line Bar & Grill, the largest coun­try dance hall and live mu­sic venue in Ven­tura County. Sev­eral of his friends who had been with him Wed­nes­day night were “cry­ing un­con­trol­lably” when they learned of his death, his fa­ther said.

Mark Wer­m­ers, the scout­mas­ter of Or­fanos’s Boy Scout troop, re­called him as a quiet but hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated teenager. Wer­m­ers said Or­fanos was prin­ci­pled and lived his life by Boy Scout val­ues. He said he imag­ined Or­fanos was help­ing peo­ple in his fi­nal mo­ments.

“He was a great Boy Scout,” Wer­m­ers said.

The se­nior Or­fanos said his son was at the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val last year in Las Ve­gas when a gun­man opened fire from a high­rise ho­tel. His son was en­listed by paramedics to help drag the bod­ies of the dead and in­jured from the line of fire, he said.

“He was a very kind per­son,” Or­fanos said. “He would al­ways try to help peo­ple.”

The Navy vet­eran was haunted by the ex­pe­ri­ence in Las Ve­gas, his fa­ther said, and en­tered ther­apy to cope with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Or­fanos was some­thing of a gun en­thu­si­ast, his fa­ther said. But his par­ents wouldn’t al­low him to keep a firearm in the house. And, he added, the 27-year-old rec­og­nized the need to limit ac­cess to cer­tain high-power weapons.

Af­ter they learned of their son’s death, the par­ents is­sued an ur­gent call for gun con­trol.

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun con­trol,” Su­san Or­fanos, his mother, said on lo­cal TV. —Isaac Stan­ley-Becker, Mo­riah Balin­git and

Su­san Svr­luga

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