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A 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and a 22-year-old baseball player were among the victims of the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in California.
Sgt. Ron Helus, 54
Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department, was talking to his wife on the phone — as he frequently did during his shifts — when he got a call to respond to a shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday night.
According to officials, he told her, “Hey, I have to go. I love you. I’ll talk to you later.”
Helus, 54, was the first officer to arrive at the scene of the shooting, along with a California Highway Patrol officer.
As part of deputies’ training for an active shooter situation, Helus knew he had to enter the building immediately and try to stop the gunman, who had opened fire on scores of young patrons enjoying the bar’s college country night.
When Helus and the patrol officer entered the bar, they immediately exchanged gunfire with the suspect, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said at a press conference.
Helus was shot several times and died in the hospital early Thursday morning. He was due to retire next year.
Eleven others were also killed in the shooting and the gunman was found dead at the scene.
“Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff sergeant,” an emotional Dean said. “He was totally committed. He gave it his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero because he went in to save lives, to save other people.”
Hundreds of people lined up on the street waving flags as part of a procession for the fallen officer.
Dean told CBS News that he and Helus were gym buddies.
He said there was “no doubt” that Helus and the patrol officer helped to save the lives of many young people at the bar.
Photos on Helus’s Facebook page showed him enjoying outdoor activities, including fishing with his son.
“He was a father, a husband, and he died tonight going in to try to save others and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Dean said.
Jason Coffman spoke to his son Cody, who was headed to the Borderline Bar & Grill on Wednesday night.
“First thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive,'” Jason Coffman told reporters on Thursday. “The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.'”
Cody was later shot during the rampage at the bar. His father said he was pronounced dead on the scene.
Cody had just turned 22. Coffman said that Cody was talking to recruiters to be part of the military and was on his way of “fulfilling his dream of serving the country.”
Cody had “outgoing love for everybody,” especially his baseball team, his father said. He was the head umpire for the Camarillo Pony Baseball league.
Cody’s death was going to “crush” his two younger brothers, ages 8 and 6, their father said. He was also set to have a little sister soon, as Jason’s wife is pregnant with a girl.
Before he heard his son had died, Coffman told BuzzFeed News that he and his wife woke up to Cody’s friends pounding on their front door just after 1 a.m.
“They made it,” Coffman said. “He didn’t.
“This is going to be an absolute heart-wrenching time for me and my family,” Coffman told reporters. “For me, this is the heart I will never get back. I will never get back.”
Alaina Housley, who was one of at least 16 Pepperdine University students who were at the College Country night at Borderline Grill & Bar Wednesday night, was killed in the shooting, her family members confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
She was the niece of former Fox News reporter Adam Housley and his wife, actress Tamera Mowry-Housley.
“Our hearts are broken,” Adam and Tamera 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.”
Alaina’s friends and family hadn’t heard from her for nearly seven hours after the shooting. Her Apple Watch and iPhone continued to show her location on the dance floor of the bar, Adam Housley told the Los Angeles Times.
“My gut is saying she’s inside the bar, dead,” he said. “I’m hoping I’m wrong.”
Justin Meek died a hero, authorities told his family. Meek, 23, was a recent graduate of California Lutheran University, where he studied criminology and criminal justice.
When the shooter opened fire at the Borderline Grill & Bar, Meek began pushing people out of the way to safety, one of his friends said at a prayer service at Cal Lutheran on Thursday.
“All he wanted to do was to protect us,” Fernan Diamse, a senior at the university, told the crowd.
Meek suffered multiple gunshot wounds while he barricaded himself between the gunman and other patrons, the friend added.
Cal Lutheran University said in a statement that Meek “heroically saved lives in the incident.”
His sister, Victoria Rose, still attends the university and was with Meek at the bar when the shooting began. She was able to get out safely, according to posts by friends and family on Facebook.
Meek was described as being like “a giant teddy bear walking around campus with a great voice,” Diamse said at the prayer service.
For roughly the last year, Meek had been working with a young man with autism, assisting with social skills and taking him out in the community, the man’s mother Jennifer McNulty told BuzzFeed News.
Meek taught line dancing at the bar, was a talented cook, and also sang in a choir, she added. He wanted to help people, said McNulty, who learned he had died at the prayer service.
“I knew he would be right out there protecting people,” she said. “I didn’t know what had happened, but I had a feeling.”
Casey Morrison, 25, who worked as a promoter at Borderline, said Justin was a “fun, bright and bubbly” person.
“He had amazing energy and I don’t think I ever saw him upset,” Morrison said. “He was like a big teddy bear. He would always give me a big hug every time I walked in; he was always the first person I saw either walking up to the line or walking inside and he constantly had a smile on his face. He didn’t deserve this.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more victims are identified. Check back or follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.