THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (CN) – Families and neighbors of those impacted by Wednesday night’s mass shooting at a Western-style bar in California that killed a dozen people gathered Thursday morning at a reunification site to learn the fate of their loved ones.
A U.S. flag outside the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, the makeshift reunification site for families, was lowered to half-staff as a crush of reporters crowded around law enforcement officials and locals who showed up to offer support.
Twelve people were killed in the shooting plus the gunman, who killed himself, according to authorities.
Jason Coffman emerged from the center in tears and holding the hand of a loved one after learning that his son Cody Coffman, 22, was one of the victims of the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, located in the northwestern area of Greater Los Angeles.
Coffman told reporters that his son’s death is a tragic and traumatic moment for his family.
“I just ask that people pray for [Cody] and all the other families,” Coffman said.
Two more victims were identified Thursday afternoon.
Alaina Housley, an 18-year-old freshman at Pepperdine University and niece of “Sister Sister” actress Tamera Mowry-Housley, was among those killed.
Authorities also identified 23 year-old Justin Meek, a student at California Lutheran University, as a victim of the shooting. Meek also worked at Borderline as a promoter, according to a Thousand Oaks Acorn report.
Six more victims were identified Wednesday evening after their families were notified by authorities.
The victims are Blake Dingman, Jake Dunham, Noel Sparks, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Daniel Manrique, and Borderline employees Sean Adler, Telemachus Orfanos and Kristina Morisette.
Orfanos survived the 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, his mother told reporters. Borderlines Bar had become a meeting point over the past year for survivors of that incident living in the area.
In an interview, Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox called the shooting “senseless” and tragic for a city known for its safety and close community ties.
“We are gonna wrap our arms around these families,” Fox said.
Fox praised Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, another one of the victims identified so far, and thanked him for his heroic service.
“Our officers know that when they answer a call, there’s a possibility they may not come home,” Fox said. “Sgt. Helus had an opportunity to put his life on the line to save others and his loved ones will know he did that.”
The mayor said city officials are still preparing notifications for families of the victims.
Fox said he was leaving an event Wednesday night celebrating his retirement from the city council when the emergency calls came in that 28 year-old former U.S Marine Ian David Long had shot patrons at the Borderline Bar & Grill, who were there for the weekly line dancing and college night.
Lourise Hodges, a 21-year-old resident of Thousand Oaks, stood outside the teen center offering to buy food and water for the families waiting to reunite with their loved ones, or identify their bodies.
“I just want to offer support, be a shoulder to cry on if needed,” Hodges said. “This doesn’t happen in our community so this is shocking and saddening.”
Hodges said she’s been awake since 3 a.m. and, after dropping her children off at school, tried to donate blood for the victims at nearby Los Robles Hospital.
But her fellow Thousand Oaks residents showed up in droves to donate and Hodges couldn’t get in. She was, however, able to witness the procession that took Sgt. Helus’ body from the hospital to the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Hundreds of locals lined the streets along the procession route. Drivers got out of their cars and saluted the fallen sergeant from freeway overpasses.
Hodges said the outpouring of support was astonishing to see.
“I’ve never seen so many residents and police officers in the streets showing support,” Hodges said. “But when a fallen officer has served the community for so long, you owe him homage and should pay him respects.”
Police have closed off access to the Borderline Bar & Grill as investigators comb through the bloody scene and work with families to identify the bodies of victims.
Jim Rivera of the Ventura County Community Foundation told reporters outside the reunification site that the organization has set up a victim’s fund.
“100 percent of donations will go to support the families,” Rivera said.
Volunteers with the Red Cross could be seen carting in boxes of pizza and other supplies for loved ones inside the teen center. On the side of the building, families embraced and put their heads in the hands.
An additional 23 victims who were injured were treated at local hospitals and have since been released, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
Families and loved ones seeking updates and information on support services can call the Ventura County Joint Information Hotline at 805-465-6650.