The father of Cody Coffman gave an emotional interview after learning his son was one of the 11 victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting in California.
Telemachus Orfanos saw too much horror.
First, he survived last year’s massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival, where 58 people were slain. He was also at the Borderline Bar and Grill on Wednesday night, when a gunman, dressed in black, killed 12 people.
One of them was Orfanos. He was 27.
“My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends, and he came home. He didn’t come home last night,” his mother, Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, told a local TV reporter. “I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control.”
A 2009 graduate of Thousand Oaks High School who spent 2 1/2 years in the U.S. Navy, Orfanos was at the Borderline Bar and Grill to meet friends for dinner, his father, Marc, told the Ventura County Star of the USA TODAY Network.
“It’s particularly ironic that after surviving the worst mass shooting in modern history, he went on to be killed in his hometown,” he said.
Authorities still haven’t named all the victims in the attack at the bar in Thousand Oaks, California, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. Police said the gunman, identified as Ian David Long, opened fire inside the country-western dance bar with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun, killing at least 11 victims at the scene. test
Ron Helus, a sergeant with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, later died from his injuries after confronting the shooter. Long was also found dead inside the establishment.
The bar was hosting an event for college students and was crowded with 19- to 25-year-olds, Sheriff Geoff Dean said. It was the deadliest mass shooting since 17 students and teachers were killed in February at a school in Parkland, Florida.
‘He never quit on people’
Daniel Manrique, 33, was a Marine Corps veteran who started the Ventura County chapter of Team Red, White and Blue in 2014 to help fellow veterans make the transition from military to civilian life, says friend Sara Bergeron.
“I’ve never met anyone my whole life that was so selfless and committed to helping veterans succeed and just thrive. He never quit on people. He never gave up, even if someone tried to push him away. He always still reached out,” said Bergeron, who served in the Navy and met Manrique when she was president of the veterans club at California Lutheran University.
Bergeron suspects her friend struggled with PTSD himself, though he never discussed it with her. So when she first learned that the Borderline gunman had been in the Marines and may have suffered from PTSD, she thought immediately: “Wow, I wish this person had met Dan.”
Then a friend texted her the awful news: Manrique died at Borderline, a victim of the gunman.
“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,” she said.
In fact, that’s what Manrique was doing that night at Borderline, Bergeron said, “he was there to support and work with other veterans.”
And that’s what she will remember most about him, his unwavering focus on the future and how that helped his fellow veterans look forward, too.
“A lot of people when they separate from the military have a hard time moving past their past. He definitely honored his military service but he was focused on his current service to his current community,” she said. “Instead of going into the darkness, he became a light for others to follow.”
Manrique was not the only friend that Bergeron lost at Borderline. She was also friends with Justin Meek, another of the victims.
“Every story I hear from every person about that night, it lights my heart,” she said. “They were heroes. They were heroes before Borderline and they still are. They lived up to who they are until the end.”
‘One of the sweetest guys’
Meek, 23, never stayed idle. At Coronado High School, he was an Eagle Scout, president of the Octagon Club and captain of the JV water polo team, according to his LinkedIn page.
While attending California Lutheran University, Meek studied criminal justice and kept up his water polo skills, while also taking part in choir and serving as president of Club Italia. On the rare free time he had, he worked as a lifeguard for the city of Coronado.
Meek was working Wednesday night as a security guard at the Borderline Bar and Grill when the shooting started. He died trying to save others, according to California Lutheran and several social media postings.
Meek was “a big, huge beast of a man, a big tall man. He was a security guard, but he was also a pussycat, one of the sweetest guys in the world,” Tony Duran told USA TODAY. Duran is owner of Goode Time Productions, which supplies carolers such as Meek to Disneyland and other Disney venues.
A classically trained singer with a deep, rich voice, Meek quickly memorized all 100 songs in the repertoire and dreamed of singing with his girlfriend at Disneyland’s Club 33.
The two had been talking of getting married and their future together as singers, Duran said.
“It was his dream to sing at Club 33 at Disneyland, and that’s never going to happen. It was her dream to sing with him at Club 33, and that’s never going to happen – all because of the stupid choice that killer made that robbed so many people of hearing Justin Meek’s beautiful voice. It’s senseless.
“He was loved by so many people,” Duran said. “He was just the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. He was the guy you really wanted to have as a friend because of the joy he brought.”
Meek used his body to shield patrons, Duran said. “He died a hero. It’s going to be hard to not have him with us.”
‘Our hearts are broken’
In the early morning darkness, friends and family rushed to the scene, desperately looking for their loved ones. They repeatedly called cell phones, scanned social media sites or urged law enforcement for answers.
Alaina Housley, a freshman at Pepperdine University, had gone to the Borderline to line dance with friends. As word of the shooting spread, her aunt, “The Real” host and “Sister, Sister” star Tamera Mowry-Housley, scoured social media, frantically looking for her niece. Mowry-Housley’s husband, Adam Housley, asked his nearly 100,000 Twitter followers for prayers, as they held out hope she was OK.
By late Thursday morning, however, the couple learned Alaina Housley didn’t make it out of the bar alive.
“Our hearts are broken,” they said in a statement. “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.”
At Vintage High School, Housley was an honors student who played on the varsity soccer team and served in student government all four years before graduating in June.
Ventura County has set up a Family Assistance and Unification Center where shooting victims and their families can seek help after the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, Wednesday night. (Nov. 8)
Vintage principal Sarah O’Connor remembered her as a “natural leader and connector,” who was loved by her peers and the school staff. The school is offering counseling support to students and staff.
“One of my favorite moments was when Alaina, who played violin in our orchestra, had all of the violinists play happy birthday for her mom one year. Her mom is an employee here,” O’Connor told USA TODAY. “She did something special for her mom, and she used her musical talent.
“She was sweet and kind, a good to the core person with great values,” O’Connor said.
Marcia Battat, Housley’s piano teacher from the ages of 5 to 12, said she was thrilled when Housley said she would continue with music in college.
She recalled how the young girl would show up for lessons with a smile on her face –and a drawing or a poem for Battat in her hand. Housley was musically gifted and had a soft spot for playing songs from Broadway musicals, Battat said.
“She was very creative and artistic. … She used to say how she loved piano and she loved me. It was a wonderful experience for me to be able to teach her,” she said.
On Thursday, Battat prayed Housley was not among the victims. “All of the memories I have of her keep going through my mind. It’s heartbreaking. I’m still in shock,” she said.
‘I cannot believe it’s happened in my family’
Jason Coffman also rushed to the scene early Thursday hoping to find his first-born son, Cody.
“I cannot believe it’s happened in my family,” Jason Coffman, 41, told reporters shortly after learning Cody had not survived the shooting massacre. “I am speechless and heartbroken. … My life has changed now forever.”
He will miss the fishing trips with Cody, he said. He’ll miss his companionship on the baseball diamond and the way his younger sons, ages 8 and 9, looked up to Cody, who was 22. Cody was due to become an older brother again: Jason Coffman and his wife are also expecting a baby girl.
Tearful and exhausted, Coffman leaned on his father-in-law, identified as Mike, standing next to him. He said he feared Cody ran toward the gunfire, not away from it. “Cody is a tough kid,” Jason Coffman told Headline News. “He’s one of the kids to run toward a bully, to stand up for others. I think that’s maybe what he did.”
Good with kids, Cody was the head umpire for the Camarillo Pony Baseball League and had planned to join the U.S. Army, Coffman said.
“There are so many people he touched,” he said, “who are now going to be as heartbroken as I am.”
‘We’re in shock’
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.
Sparks was a regular at Borderline, where she spent Halloween and celebrated her 21st birthday in August. She often went there with friends and her mom.
She was majoring in art at nearby Moorpark College.
Sparks worked part time at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village. She helped with children’s programs, the Rev. Shawn Thornton told the Associated Press.
“She loved kids. We had a lot of parents show up today to say, ‘She made my child feel important and that they mattered,” Thornton said.
Her aunt Patricia Sparks of Morristown, Tennessee, said police informed Sparks’ father Thursday that she had died in the shooting.
“We’re in shock,” Patricia Sparks told the Associated Press.
She described her niece as an “all-around good girl. She was the kind of girl that if you had friends, you’d want them to marry her.”
Contributing: USA TODAY’s Erin Jensen, Chrissie Thompson; Anne Ryman, Arizona Republic; Megan Diskin, Ventura County Star; The Associated Press.
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