Men in green sheriff's vests led families into the Reunification Center in Thousand Oaks on Thursday, their faces veiled in caps, hoodies and flannels to block members of the press, watching from behind yellow caution tape. Inside, families learned whether their loved ones had been killed in the deadly shooting in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night. Outside, a woman in a white clinical coat led a white emotional support horse to families who were huddled together. Two men hugged a woman who had fallen to the ground, overcome with tears.
Despite the media presence outside, the center was eerily quiet.
Twelve people were killed and 22 were injured when a gunman opened fire on Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The gunman was also killed. Typically, Wednesday nights are College Country Nights, where students listen to country music and line-dance with their friends. Any student 18 and older can attend college nights, and they are very popular among California Lutheran University, Pepperdine University and Moorpark College students.
The identities of five of the 12 victims have been confirmed by friends and family, and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department has confirmed the death of Sgt. Ron Helus, who had responded to the shooting. Of the other victims who have been identified, four were students, one was a bouncer at the bar and one was a sheriff's deputy.
Sgt. Ron Helus died in the hospital after taking multiple bullets to protect people inside Borderline Bar & Grill.
"Sgt. Ron Helus donned his uniform yesterday as he did for the past 29 years," LAPD tweeted on Thursday alongside photos of Helus' funeral procession. "When gunfire erupted, [he] feared no evil, rushing to unselfishly protect his community."
Helus is survived by a wife and a son, according to The Ventura County Sheriff's Office.
"He loved spending time with his son," Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN. "They would go fishing up in the Sierras together."
Justin Meek studied criminology and criminal justice at Cal Lutheran, according to his Facebook page. The 23-year-old worked as a caregiver at Channel Islands Social Services, and he worked at the Cal Lutheran Veteran Resource Center.
Matthew Kubly, a Cal Lutheran alum who graduated in 2017, worked with Meek helping veterans before Kubly graduated. Kubly was not at Borderline Bar & Grill Wednesday night, but he heard that Meek "was helping people get out and was shot multiple times."
"He's the kind of the guy who would do that – who would walk in front of a gun for another person," Kubly told Annenberg Media.
Alaina Housley was an 18-year-old freshman at Pepperdine who was at the Borderline Wednesday night.
Housley was a co-founder of a soccer outreach program that provided soccer materials and gear to teens and children around the world. On her Instagram account, Housley is surrounded by friends relaxing at the beach and having fun at music festivals.
Her aunt, "Sister Sister" actress Tamera Mowry-Housley, and her uncle, former Fox News reporter Adam Housley, released a statement confirming that their niece was killed in the mass shooting.
"Alaina was an incredible young woman with so much life ahead of her," the statement read. "We are devastated that her life was cut short in this manner."
"Pepperdine's theater community is really hurting because Alaina was a participant in the choir," Isabel Klein, a senior at Pepperdine, said. She and Housley had many mutual friends. "At the school's prayer service, when they said her name, everyone gasped."
"She had such an infectious smile," Pepperdine University President Andrew Benton told ABC 7. "Her light will shine on, we will be sure of it."
The third confirmed student victim is 22-year-old Cody Coffman of Camarillo, Calif. Early Thursday, Cody's father Jason Coffman, told reporters that his son had two younger brothers, ages 6 and 8, and a baby sister on the way.
"Cody was the big brother that my kids need," Coffman told reporters. "I have a daughter coming on the 29th of this month. [Cody] was so excited to have his first sister."
The last conversation the father and son had was before Cody left for the Borderline. "First thing I said is, 'please don't drink and drive.' Last thing I said is, 'I love you.'"
Noel Sparks was a student at Moorpark College, a youth camp leader and a youth volunteer at her church.
On Sparks' Instagram account, the 21-year-old has photos smiling with families and friends, joining a Color Run and performing in dance shows. On her Facebook, she shared and checked in at multiple parties and events at Borderline Bar & Grill, including another College Country Night in early October.
"Holding in prayer all those affected by last night's shooting," United Methodist Church in Westlake, Sparks' church, wrote on Facebook. In another post, the church directly reference Sparks, adding that it is grieving with Sparks' parents, Tony Sparks and Wendy Anderson.
Nicole Guerriero, a student at Cal Lutheran, has been friends with Sparks for more than six years. They worked together at their church.
"She was the most amazing, selfless, and kind human being I've ever known," Guerriero said. "She never respected anything in return and was always selflessly serving others."
Sean Adler was a bouncer at Borderline Bar & Grill and a former wrestling coach at Simi High School and Royal Wrestling. The 48-year-old was also an entrepreneur, co-founding Rivalry Roasters, a coffee shop in Simi Valley with its own brand of coffee. The coffeehouse opened just weeks ago on Oct. 22.
"You couldn't have met a nicer guy," Simi High Wrestling tweeted about Adler alongside a screenshot from Royal Wrestling. "I'm sure plenty of people will be touched by this horrific tragedy. Make sure to remember the families, first responders and those who were there."
"He was positive, motivational, and truly wanted the best for the people around him," the screenshot reads. "Thank you Sean for your help and most of all your friendship."
"I just remember him as such a good, genuine person; it breaks my heart;" Fernanda Garcia, a junior at Moorpark, said. "He was the sweetest, nicest, most caring person."
Telemachus Orfanos was a survivor of the Las Vegas festival shooting in 2017, his mother, Susan, told ABC7. On Wednesday night, Orfanos was killed in the Borderline shooting.
According to his Facebook page, Orfanos was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and worked at an Infiniti car dealership in Thousand Oaks. Like many others at Borderline Bar & Grill's college night, Orfanos studied at Moorpark College.
"I don't want thoughts. I want gun control," Susan Orfanos said to ABC7. "I hope to God nobody sends me any more prayers. I want gun control."
press"He will forever be our hero, son, brother, and the best uncle anybody could ever ask for," Daniel Manrique's sister, Gladys Marinque Koscak, posted on Facebook.
According to Manrique's Facebook page, he was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had recently become a chapter captain at Team Red, White & Blue, a veteran support nonprofit.
"He was shot and killed in an absolutely senseless act of violence that we will never understand," his sister wrote. "He died a hero."
USC Provost Michael Quick emailed a university-wide memorandum offering condolences to those affected by the shooting.
"Reports suggest many of the victims are college-age, which makes this latest shooting hit even closer to home," he wrote. "I know many of you are tired and angry, and I share those feelings."
The memorandum concluded with numbers of counseling services and crisis support hotlines.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also expressed her condolences, saying she is "heartbroken." She also called for "stronger federal gun regulations" in a written statement.
"These mass murders are depressingly pervasive," Feinstein wrote. "They're inspired by racism, revenge, terrorism or just pure hatred. The one common attribute: easy access to guns."
Local students responded to the divisive issue of gun control differently after Wednesday's shooting.
"I am a firm believer that there should be gun control," said Melissa Dennin, a freshman at Cal Lutheran who considered going to Borderline Bar & Grill on Wednesday. "I just hope that since our community has been hurt, we can use the media attention that we're getting to actually talk about how our government has to step up and change."
"Everyone deals with their mourning in different ways, but I personally feel motivated to make a change," Klein, the Pepperdine senior, said. "I'm donating to places like Everytown for Gun Safety."
Kubly, the alum who was a friend of one of the victims, planned on going to college night with his girlfriend, but decided he should do work for his online master's program instead. He wants to focus solely on remembering the victims, not on gun laws.
"I think politicizing things like this or any type of shooting is disrespectful to the people who jumped in front of that gun to save those around them," Kubly said. "What's best is that we think about the people that sacrificed."
Kubly still lives near his alma mater and stays in touch with other alums and current Cal Lutheran students.
"There's going to be an outpouring of compassion and help [in the community]; the Cal Lutheran community is very strong," Kubly said. "It's unfortunate that it takes something like this to bring people together, but I know the students are going to rally together."
"Because [Pepperdine is] a Christian campus, prayer can be a part of what we do," Klein said. "Faith will be what gets us through this tragedy."
"I think everyone is just really shocked because we can all think about being [at Borderline Bar & Grill], and we know so many people who were there," Dennin said. "It happened in a community that's supposed to be safe."
Simrin Singh, Tanvi Varma and Elizabeth Mayoral Corpus contributed research to this story.
Correction: Alaina Housley's name has been corrected from Housely.