Twelve innocent people were lost to gun violence exactly one year ago
Twelve innocent people were lost to gun violence exactly one year ago on Nov. 7, 2018, when a Marine Corps veteran entered a busy California bar and opened fire. Those slain in the mass shooting included a college freshman, a seasoned law enforcement officer, a recent college graduate and an aspiring Army recruit whom his father called his “best friend.”
More than ten others were wounded in the attack, inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks during its weekly “College Country Night,” sheriff’s officials have said.
Shots were first reported at about 11:20 p.m. The gunman was found dead in the bar of suicide.
These are the deceased victims:
Sean Adler, 48
“From what I understand,” Adler’s sister, Valarie Adler, told local TV station KNBC, “Sean tried to disarm [the gunman]. That is typical of Sean.”
Valarie called Sean — a father of two an a salesman turned coffee shop owner who also worked at Borderline — “caring” and “compassionate.”
“He was a protector, always sticking up for people. … I just don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t understand the world.”
The Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register report that Adler was working at the bar (and another job as a bouncer) while his new business, Rivalry Roasters, got on its feet. Both of his sons are under the age of 18, according to the papers. The Register reports that they joined him for opening day at Rivalry, working behind the counter.
“He gave his all, to whatever it was he did,” friend Mike Nolan told the Register. “He worked his butt off. He did everything he could to make this shop a reality.”
Cody Coffman, 22
According to his heartbroken father, Jason Coffman, Cody was a young man figuring out his own path in life. “He was in a limbo stage,” says Jason, 40, of his son. “He was going to have fun, doing his partying thing and getting it out of his system.”
Jason tells PEOPLE Cody “wanted to go into the Army” and had been “talking to recruiters and getting ready to go.”
Jason says he heard Cody, who had been working for a moving company, died shielding others when the gunman entered.
“That’s my boy,” Cody’s dad says.
“He’s a hero now — that’s how I view him: as a hero,” he says.
Blake Dingman, 21
Dingman’s mother, Lorrie Dingman, describes him to PEOPLE as “such a caring person” who “always, always, always had a smile on his face. He emitted joy and he was really happy.”
“He gave the best hugs,” she adds. “He would always give me a kiss, he always told me he loved me.”
Dingman’s younger brother, Aidan, shared his grief in an Instagram post after the shooting.
“Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. Last night my life was changed forever,” Aidan wrote.
“I received news of gunfire at Borderline Bar & Grille from a friend. Which was where my brother was hanging out for the night,” Aidan continued in his post. “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.”
Jake Dunham, 21
Dunham’s father, Ken Dunham, had previously shared how he was unable to reach his son after the shooting — an unknowing echo of the same confusion suffered by Cody Coffman’s father.
“I keep calling it but there’s no answer,” Ken reportedly said. “It just keeps ringing out. And he always answers his phone.”
His mother Kathy tells PEOPLE her son, at a young age, was diagnosed with hemophilia, a rare disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Doctors encouraged him to swim rather than riding dirt bikes — but he preferred to ride.
“He loved dirt biking, which he started at age 7 on training wheels,” his mother recalls. “He was jumping BMX bikes and everything else a child with hemophilia should not do.”
His passion for BMX bikes turned into a love for racing off-road trucks. He was in the process of rebuilding an engine so that he could make his truck go faster, Kathy says.
“Jake has always lived life to the fullest,” she says. “And full-throttle, wide-open — or as he put it, ‘Hold ‘er wide!’ “
Sgt. Ron Helus, 54
One of the first responders at the scene Wednesday night, Helus was a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office who was getting ready to retire.
He was on the phone with his wife when he received word of the shooting, authorities have said. Police are hailing him a “hero” for his selfless actions.
Authorities said he was shot multiple times as he entered the bar and later died at the hospital. He leaves behind a wife and an adult son.
“He went into save lives, to save other people,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told reporters. “He was totally committed, he gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero.”
Alaina Housley, 18
Housley, a freshman at Pepperdine University, was with friends at the bar when the gunman, dressed all in black, started firing. Housley is the niece of actress Tamera Mowry-Housley and her husband, Adam Housley.
“Our hearts are broken. We just learned that our niece Alaina was one of the victims of last night’s shooting at Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks,” the couple said in a statement to PEOPLE.
“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 statement adds. “We thank everyone for your prayers and ask for privacy at this time.”
Dan Manrique, 33
Manrique, like the shooter, was a Marine Corps veteran — but since his years of service Manrique had dedicated timing to helping others.
“The best way I can describe him is as a ‘saint.’ He truly believed in service,” friend Tim O’Brien, with whom Manrique planned to open a veteran-oriented brewery, told the Orange County Register. “Dan was the guy you could rely on if you ran out of gas in the middle of the night. He would help you out if something bad happened. He was there, dedicated, loyal.”
Colleagues at Team Red White & Blue, where Manrique was very active in helping veterans transition from the military to civilian life, mourned his death in a statement.
“Dan’s life was dedicated to serving others, during his military career and beyond,” said Team RWB’s executive director, John Pinter. “We offer our deepest condolences to the Manrique family and ask that our Eagles around the world join us in keeping all those impacted by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.”
According to the group, Manrique worked as a radio operator in the Marines’ 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. He served in the Middle East in 2007 and joined Team RWB in 2012.
Sara Bergeron, a friend and fellow veteran, told USA Today that Manrique “was so selfless and committed to helping veterans succeed and just thrive. He never quit on people.
She said: “The shooter killed someone who could have been his lifeline, who could have helped him with his PTSD, who could have understood more than anyone what he was going through.”
Justin Meek, 23
Meek, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, was “one of the precious lives cut short in this tragedy,” according to a statement from his alma mater California Lutheran University.
Meek “heroically saved lives” in the shooting, university officials said.
“We will pray, begin to comfort one another in our grief, and hold the families, friends and loved ones of the victims in our hearts,” their statement concludes. “Cal Lutheran wraps its arms around the Meek family and other families, and around every member of this community of caring.”
Richard Mgrdechian, who manages the band Madison Rising, says they met Meek at a 2014 concert: “He was a very nice guy. He played guitar and loved music.”
Mark Meza, 20
Meza, who worked as a bus boy at the Borderline Bar & Grill, was an alumni of the Carpinteria Unified School District, according to a statement his former school district.
“Mark was loved by many in our community and will be dearly missed,” the statement reads. “Please hold his family and friends in your hearts and thoughts at this difficult time.
Kristina Morisette, 20
Morisette, a cashier at the Borderline Bar & Grill, was among the first to be gunned down during Wednesday’s mass violence.
Morisette was a native of Simi Valley, California. She was waiting tables the night she died, friends confirm.
One of them, Carl Edgar, a bar regular who survived the Las Vegas massacre last year, tells PEOPLE that Kristina “was sweet, caring, and always had a smile on her face.”
Telemachus Orfanos, 27
Orfanos, a Navy veteran who went by “Tel,” had already survived one massacre only to die in another, his parents have said in interviews. They told the Washington Post, New York Times and others that Orfanos was at the Route 91 country music festival in Las Vegas last year, in a mass shooting there that killed 58 victims.
“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts,” his mother, Susan Orfanos, reportedly said in a local TV interview. “I want gun control.”
Susan was equally emphatic when speaking with the Times:
“He was killed last night at Borderline. He made it through 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.”
Carl Edgar, a Borderline regular, tells PEOPLE that Tel was working security at the bar.
“[He] was an extremely good friend,” Edgar recalls, adding, “Always said ‘hi’ to me when I came in, always gave me a hug.”
Kevin, a high school friend of Tel’s, echoed that, telling PEOPLE: “He was a great guy. Would never hurt a fly. Always had a sense of humor. Always joking around. You can walk into him in any of the local bars here and he would be sitting there hanging out with two or seven friends.”
Noel Sparks, 21
Sparks was “was the kind of girl that if you had friends, you’d want them to marry her,” her aunt Patricia Sparks told the Associated Press. A student at a local college, she reportedly turned 21 in August and the Borderline was a favorite spot — Wednesday night, before the shooting, she posted a photo of her dancing there.
“We’re in shock,” Patricia said.
Rev. Dr. Walter C. Dilg, senior pastor at the United Methodist Church in Westlake Village, where Sparks was raised, described her as well-liked and “deeply missed.”
• With reporting by ELAINE ARADILLAS, KC BAKER, JOHNNY DODD, SUSAN KEATING, AILI NAHAS and CHRISTINE PELISEK