The neighborhood bar they all came to for a casual midweek night out was like one big community living room.
It was the kind of place where you might run into a Little League coach or a neighbor or the owner of a local coffee shop you liked, the kind of place where people of a wide range of ages felt secure.
It had long been a hangout of students from the colleges nearby.
Borderline Bar and Grill had theme nights. Every Wednesday was College Country Night.
One of those who would die after a former Marine opened fire there Wednesday night was a college student who had recently been to the bar’s College Country Night Halloween Hoedown.
Another was a sheriff’s sergeant who quickly responded to the scene.
Among the dead were a father who hoped to find his path with a coffee shop he had opened, a college freshman who dreamed of being a singer and a former Marine who devoted himself to helping fellow veterans adjust to coming home.
These are some of their stories:
Sean Adler, 48
For years, Sean Adler hopped from job to job, looking for his passion.
He was a salesman who also coached soccer and taekwondo. He trained to become a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — but then he had a heart attack and had to change course.
Over the summer, he proudly opened a coffee shop. He called it Rivalry Roasters.
On one of its walls, a sign read: “Collect moments, not things.”
While the business got going, Sean continued working as a bouncer at Borderline Bar and Grill to support his wife and two sons, ages 17 and 12.
He was working at the bar when he was killed.
Debbie Nieser, a childhood friend, said he had charisma.
“He was just a very caring guy that was a lot of fun,” she said. “He was someone that went after his dreams, someone who was always trying to find his dreams, someone who connected with many different types of people.”
Outside Rivalry on Wednesday afternoon, bouquets had been placed at the door. People left notes about Sean’s kindness.
“These flowers are nowhere near as vibrant as you were,” read one.
Cody Coffman, 22
The last thing Cody’s father, Jason Coffman, told his boy was “I love you, Son.”
Cody was his father’s fishing buddy, even as a small child.
“That poor boy would come with me whether he liked it or not,” Coffman said. “That’s the kind of stuff that I’m truly going to miss.”
On Thursday, Jason Coffman wiped away tears as he spoke about his loss.
He said Cody’s friends had shown up at his door in the middle of the night. They said they had gotten out, but no one had heard from Cody.
The Little League coach had many plans for the future. He wanted to join the Army. He was also expecting a baby sister soon.
At least once a week, he would show up at Borderline Bar and Grill to line dance.
When he left his family’s home on Wednesday, he was wearing a new pair of pants to go with his signature cowboy boots.
“I cannot believe that it’s happened in my family,” Jason Coffman said. “I am speechless and heartbroken.”
Blake Dingman, 21
Blake Dingman was a jokester and a fixture in Ventura County’s off-roading community.
He was goofy, always trying to make people laugh, said his friend Michael Moses.
“I don’t think I ever saw him sad about anything,” Moses said.
Though financial constraints meant his truck was often not up to par for treks, Dingman would always bring his dirt bike to gatherings.
He was at Borderline Wednesday night with his friend Jake Dunham, who also died in the shooting.
Dingman’s brother, Aidan, really looked up to him, Moses said: “He was what he wanted to be. He had a nice truck. He had everything going for him. They were best friends.”
On Instagram, Aidan Dingman wrote about learning that his “amazing brother was taken down by the shooter.”
“Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling. …. Blake, I love you so much, and I miss you more than you can imagine.”
Jake Dunham, 21
When Newbury Park off-roaders would ride off into the desert, their trucks would rise into the air before crashing nose-first in the dry dirt. Sometimes, they would set the vehicles and old dirt bikes aflame for a huge bonfire celebration, drinking and laughing around the fire.
Jake Dunham was usually there, the life of the party, said friend Michael Moses.
Dunham was at Borderline with his friend Blake Dingman.
As an off-roader, Dunham was the gutsy one. He would drive his giant truck, towing a Ford Ranger. It wasn’t long before he’d break the truck after all the hard riding.
Then he’d drink — probably a Jack & Coke—and sit around the bonfire with friends, laughing as he plotted his next feat.
“He always tried to convince people to [let him] drive their car. Everyone knew it was a bad idea, but sometimes they’d do it,” Moses said, laughing.
Jake Dunham’s sister Alexis Dunham asked for privacy on Facebook.
“Two nights ago, we were woken up at 1 a.m. to the news that my brother was missing only to find out 11 hours later that he was murdered,” she wrote.
Ron Helus, 54
Before he pushed through that barroom door, before the bullets struck and his body crumpled, Sgt. Ron Helus was on the phone with his wife.
“I gotta go handle a call. I love you. I’ll talk to you later.”
The words had been uttered countless times by the Ventura County sheriff’s veteran who was on the brink of retirement when he entered Borderline on Wednesday. Authorities credit him with saving lives before losing his own. He had worn a badge for 29 years — the span of his marriage, and one year longer than the life of the gunman who would take it all away.
Helus had a reputation as an easygoing, lighthearted officer, always up for small talk. Patrons at the Starbucks where he grabbed his morning coffee knew his smile. Regulars at his gym in Camarillo recalled how he struck up conversations about current events. On Thursday, his usual elliptical machine was kept off-limits and displayed his photo.
Alaina Housley, 18
Music was a passion for Alaina Housley, a freshman at Pepperdine University.
She was thinking of taking a musical theater class and had dreams of becoming a singer.
On Wednesday, she was on the dance floor with friends when the shooting started. Her friends jumped through a broken window to escape, but they lost her in the chaos.
Alaina’s Apple Watch and iPhone still showed her location on the dance floor as her uncle, Adam Housley, searched hospitals.
Actress Tamera Mowry-Housley, her aunt, began to search for her in the early morning hours, to no avail. Later, the family 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.”
Luke Sides, a fellow Pepperdine student, said he met Alaina last spring on campus. She had just been dropped off by her parents and was sitting alone when Sides, 19, introduced himself. She seemed relieved to make a new friend, he said.
It didn’t take her long to make many more.
“She was just a really sweet girl,” Sides said. “Whenever I had any problems, she would always reach out and helped me.”
Dan Manrique, 33
Dan Manrique dedicated his life to service.
He served in the Marines as a radio operator. Then, when he returned from the Middle East to his hometown of Thousand Oaks, he worked to help veterans settle back into civilian life.
“He was selfless,” said his brother, Marcos Manrique, 23. “He just wanted to help this country.”
Marcos Manrique said people told him that Dan was standing in the parking lot of Borderline Bar and Grill when the shots were fired — and that he ran in to help.
“I just want him to be remembered as a true hero,” Marcos Manrique said.
Dan was the oldest of four siblings. He had recently gotten a good job at a nonprofit serving veterans called Team Red, White & Blue.
He planned to move out of his parents’ house soon and had dreams of starting a brewing company.
Jaclyn Pieper, 33, who met Manrique in middle school, said that he was positive, always trying to find the upside.
Pieper woke up Thursday and began texting all the friends she knew had been at the bar.
Everybody answered promptly — except Dan.
Justin Meek, 23
So many people at Borderline Bar and Grill knew Justin Meek.
He was the bouncer and bar promoter — and if you mentioned his name at the entrance, you got a discount.
“See y’all tonight!!” he wrote in his final Instagram post. “Say Justin at the door.”
When Justin wasn’t working at the bar, he was helping kids with autism at Channel Islands Social Services.He helped with birthday parties, family events and also sang in a quartet.
“Justin was an exceptionally kind and gifted young man who always went out of his way to help others,” said Sharon Francis, the organization’s chief executive officer.
Several survivors of the bar shooting said Justin was shot trying to save others.
The recent graduate had just gotten his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from California Lutheran University.
On his Facebook page, he posted a photo after the Las Vegas shooting, asking for prayers. He also reminded friends to not forget the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Leah Marty, a friend, said Justin was always friendly, cracking jokes and planning group outings.
He once encouraged her to join a line-dancing club on campus.
“I can’t dance,” she recalled telling him. “Me neither!” he responded.
On Thursday, she smiled at the memory.
Kristina Morisette, 20
A few days before the shooting, Kristina Morisette’s dad, Michael, was nervous to see his daughter board a plane to Austin, Texas.
He worried for her safety.
His daughter was stubborn and convinced him she would be fine. And she was.
On Wednesday, Kristina headed out to her 6 p.m. shift at Borderline, leaving her mother with a coin purse, a memento from Austin.
After they learned of the shooting, the Morisettes spent hours with other families, waiting for news.
At 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, they learned that the youngest of their three children had died.
They drove home to Simi Valley in a fog of grief.
“We could either retreat and draw our curtains or we could talk about the beauty of the things that were,” said Michael Morisette, as he held his wife’s hand in their family room on Thursday afternoon.
Kristina was talkative and her friends were the very center of her life, the Morisettes said.
She was quick to console others or offer a friend a ride. She had just bought her first car — a 2017 Jeep Renegade — with the money she had saved from working at the bar.
“We didn’t want her life to end,” said her mother, Martha Morisette. “But we don’t want her memories now to end, either.”
Mark Meza Jr., 20
Mark Meza was one of the victims of the shooting Wednesday, his mother Theresa Sotelo confirmed through tears.
He attended Santa Barbara Community College in 2014, according to spokeswoman Luz Reyes-Martin.
“I’d like to say that the entire SBCC community mourns this tragic loss of bright, young, promising lives,” Reyes-Martin said in an email statement. “We send our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the victims. We are heartbroken to learn of Mark’s death."
Telemachus Orfanos, 27
Telemachus Orfanos survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year only to be killed Wednesday night at Borderline Bar and Grill.
His mother, Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, could hardly speak as she sobbed over the phone.
“I don’t have anything else to say except more gun control,” she said.
Schmidt-Orfanos told KABC-TV that her son had gone to Las Vegas with a friend and made it home.
“He didn’t come home last night,” she said. “And I don’t want prayers, I don’t want thoughts, I want gun control and I hope to God nobody sends me any more prayers.”
On his Facebook page, Orfanos wrote that he worked at Infiniti of Thousand Oaks and had served in the Navy.
Noel Sparks, 21
Noel Sparks was a student at Moorpark College.
At one time, she had been active in church, a member of the youth group and the choir, said Walter Dilg, a senior pastor at United Methodist Church in Westlake Village.
She left several years ago to attend Calvary Chapel.
“It is with heavy hearts that we notify you that Noel Sparks was among the victims of last night’s shooting,” said a United Methodist Facebook post.
Noel had been to Borderline Bar and Grill before. In late October, she posted on her Facebook page that she would be attending the bar’s College Country Night Halloween Hoedown.
Early Thursday morning, Jennifer Avalos was searching frantically for her best friend. They had met at church two years ago.
Avalos cried as she stood outside the Thousand Oaks Teen Center.
“She’s been there for me through difficult times,” she said.
This story was written by Times staff writers Esmeralda Bermudez, Andrea Castillo, Melissa Etehad, Marisa Gerber, Corina Knoll, Sonali Kohli, Brittny Mejia, Laura Newberry, Benjamin Oreskes, Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Nicole Santa Cruz.