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Thousand Oaks Remembers Shooting Victims


Now let's listen to people in Thousand Oaks, Calif., after Wednesday's mass shooting at a bar where a gunman killed 12 people. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: These post-traumatic prayer vigils have become all too common, but there was one thing missing from the one in Thousand Oaks last night. There was no reading of the names of the dead. That's because the shooting had taken place less than 24 hours before. Not all of the victims' identities had been confirmed. But it was still important to hold this event on this night, said Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox.

ANDREW FOX: Communities are getting together to make a difference.

JAFFE: And the hundreds of people filling the city's main theater agreed. The only victim mentioned by name was Sergeant Ronald Helus, who gave his life trying to stop the shooter. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean recalled him as a good father, good husband, good friend and a sergeant who looked out for his deputies.

GEOFF DEAN: The loss of this hero is no more important or less important than the loss of the other 11 lives that needlessly left us that tragic night.

JAFFE: One of those 11 lives belonged to Cody Kaufman. His father, Jason Kaufman, wanted to make sure that his son was remembered, though when he talked to reporters, his grief was so raw, he could barely stand without assistance.


JASON KAUFMAN: Only him and I know how much I love - how much I miss - oh, God, this is so - sorry, I love you, son.

JAFFE: Cody Kaufman was 22 years old and about to join the Army. Jason Kaufman recalled their last conversation before his son headed out the door for the Borderline Bar and Grill.


KAUFMAN: First thing I said was, please, don't drink and drive. Last thing I said was, son, I love you. That was the last thing I said.

JAFFE: Another grieving Thousand Oaks father was Marc Orfanos. He spoke outside his home about his son, Telemachus Orfanos. He was a firearms advocate, a fan of country music and a survivor of the mass shooting in Las Vegas just over a year ago.


MARC ORFANOS: And how ironic - right? - that my son, who's a survivor from Las Vegas - OK? - and was a bit of a gun enthusiast should be killed this way. I find that absolutely ironic.

JAFFE: After these kinds of events, some people say that it's not the right time to talk about gun control and the availability of firearms. It wasn't too soon for Marc Orfanos.


ORFANOS: The issue is we have a culture of guns in this country. We have a culture of violence. And when you mix the two together, what are you going to get? What you had last night.

JAFFE: Many of the victims were young. The Borderline was having a college night when people below legal drinking age can be admitted for an evening of line dancing and hanging out. One of the confirmed victims was a Alaina Housley. She was a freshman at Pepperdine University, and she was remembered there at a midday service. Dr. Connie Horton, vice president of student affairs, was there.

CONNIE HORTON: We had prayers of peace. We had prayers of healing. And the tone was real. It was hard. And yet, we were clinging to faith and clinging to each other.

JAFFE: At the conclusion of the evening prayer vigil in Thousand Oaks, Mayor Fox said, hope is how Thousand Oaks will eventually heal.

FOX: It has sustained communities is very much like Thousand Oaks through the exact same tragedies of mass shootings at schools, churches, places of worship.

JAFFE: Now, he said, Thousand Oaks takes its place with those cities that relied on hope to move forward. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ina Jaffe
Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."