California Shooting Victims: Sgt. Ron Helus ‘Went in to Save Lives’

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California Shooting Victims: Sgt. Ron Helus ‘Went in to Save Lives’

When a gunman opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night, a chaotic scene unfolded. People ran. Some dropped to the dance floor. Some hid, others fled from the building.

Killed in the gunfire were 12 people, including a longtime sheriff’s deputy who had rushed into the crowded bar to help, and a 22-year-old patron whose friends said he had tried to help others escape, yelling “Everyone, run!” There was a college freshman who wanted to major in English literature, and a recent graduate who had collected his degree in criminal justice in May.

[Read here for the latest developments in the Thousand Oaks shooting.]

These are the stories of some of the people who died in the attack.

This story will be updated.

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Cody CoffmanCreditvia Agence France-Presse

Cody Coffman, of Camarillo, Calif., had just turned 22 and was planning to join the Army, said his father, Jason Coffman, who confirmed his son’s death in an interview with reporters that aired on CNN.

A friend, Sarah DeSon, 19, said she believed she survived the shooting because of Mr. Coffman’s quick reaction. “He was protecting everyone,” Ms. DeSon said. “He got up and he just yelled, ‘Everyone, run!’”

Baseball was Mr. Coffman’s passion. He played on his high school team and served as an umpire. He liked spending time with his younger siblings and often went fishing with his father.

“I talked to him last night before he headed out the door,” Jason Coffman said in the interview outside the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, where families had gathered to await information. “First thing I said was, ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’ The last thing I said was, ‘Son, I love you.’”

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Sgt. Ron Helus

Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the death toll might have been higher if not for Sgt. Ron Helus. As the shooting unfolded, Sergeant Helus ran inside.

“He went in to save lives, to save other people,” Sheriff Geoff Dean said. Before entering the bar, the sheriff said, Sergeant Helus had a conversation with his wife on the phone.

Sgt. Eric Buschow told CNN: “I don’t think there is anything more heroic than what he did.”

Sergeant Buschow described Sergeant Helus as “a true cop’s cop.” In 29 years on the force, he worked in various departments, including narcotics and SWAT, his colleague remembered.

“He had a natural instinct going after crooks,” Sergeant Buschow said. “He did it with enthusiasm and a great deal of intelligence.”

Sergeant Helus, 54, had been set to retire this year.

He loved being outdoors and fishing with his son in the Sierra Nevada. On his LinkedIn page, he said that in addition to his policing job, he owned a firearms safety training business called Gun Control.

Expressing condolences for those who died in the shooting, Gov. Jerry Brown singled out Sergeant Helus, who he said “took heroic action to save lives last night.”

On Thursday morning, as Sergeant Helus’s body was taken from a hospital to the county medical examiner’s office, members of the sheriff’s office accompanied him in a solemn procession.

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Alaina Housley.

Alaina Housley, a freshman at Pepperdine University, loved music and soccer.

Ms. Housley, 18, of Napa, Calif., was a graduate of Vintage High School. She had written on Facebook that she planned to major in English literature. She also said she hoped to be accepted into a vocal music program.

Photos on social media showed that she had been a member of her high school choir and performed in a production of “Les Misérables.” She was also involved in an organization, Helping to Introduce Opportunities, that donated soccer gear to young people in the developing world.

Her uncle and aunt, Adam Housley and Tamera Mowry-Housley, confirmed her death in a statement issued by their representatives. On Twitter, Mr. Housley called her a “beautiful soul.”

After Pepperdine’s family and alumni weekend last month, Ms. Housley posted on Instagram “finally got to see my parents” — with two pink hearts.

Justin Meek, 23, graduated from California Lutheran University in May with a degree in criminal justice.

His mother, Laura Lynn Meek, received a bachelor’s degree alongside her son that day, an article in a local paper, the Ventura County Star, noted. She was a veteran who carried the American flag into the ceremony, the article said, while her son sang the national anthem in a quartet.

A spokeswoman for California Lutheran University confirmed Mr. Meek’s death. Other students were also at the bar, the spokeswoman, Karin Grennan said, and the school had heard from those who escaped unharmed.

Mr. Meek’s Facebook cover photo showed him grinning widely, wearing overalls and a sleeveless plaid shirt, surrounded by other young people at Borderline, the bar where the shooting occurred. It was posted on Sept. 8.

The page described Mr. Meek as a performer with Goode Time Productions, a small company that produces services at weddings and parties. He also worked as a bouncer at a local sports bar and as a caregiver at a social services agency.

Mr. Meek regularly shared ads for Borderline’s College Country night. The day after the deadly shooting last year at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Mr. Meek had posted a photo of himself with the hashtag “#PRAYFORVEGAS.”

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