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'Oh, son! I love you so much': The victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting

NBC News logo NBC News 6 days ago James Rainey and Dareh Gregorian

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A father's desperate search for his son ended in crushing heartbreak in Thousand Oaks, California, on Thursday.

"I've been here fighting for him all morning long, and we did just get the news that he was one of the [12] that were killed last night," Jason Coffman told reporters, choking back tears. "His name was Cody Coffman, my first-born son."

"Only him and I know home much I love ... how much I miss, miss him," the dad said, holding his fist to his heart as he struggled to speak. "Oh, son! I love you so much."

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Image: Grieving people are led into the Thousand Oaks Teen Center where families have gathered after a deadly shooting at a bar on Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, California. © Richard Vogel Image: Grieving people are led into the Thousand Oaks Teen Center where families have gathered after a deadly shooting at a bar on Nov. 8, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, California.

Cody Coffman, 22, a youth baseball coach who'd planned to join the Army, according to his dad, was one of the dozen people slain when a gunman opened fire in side of the Borderline Bar and Grill.

Cal Lutheran alumni Justin Meek, 23, was killed as well, and the school said he "heroically saved lives in the incident."

Cal Lutheran students said witnesses told them that Meek had jumped in front of his sister and others to shield them from the gunman.

"Everything he did was really brave," said friend Lala Lyman, who was not at the bar. "It was heroic. We lost someone truly great."

a man holding a fish: Justin Meek © via Facebook Justin Meek

"Cal Lutheran wraps its arms around the Meek family and other families, and around every member of this community of caring," the university said on its website.

He'd graduated from Cal Lutheran in May - as did his mother, friends told NBC.

Meek enjoyed the country-themed Borderline because he loved line dancing, pals said — he'd even founded Cal Lutheran's line dancing club. He'd promoted Wednesday's "College Country Night" event on his Instagram page.

Sean Adler, a 48-year-old married father of two, was working at Borderline to make extra money, his sister Valarie Adler told KNBC.

"From what I understand, Sean tried to disarm" the shooter, Adler said. "That is typical of Sean. He was a protector, always sticking up for people. He was a caring, compassionate individual. I just don't understand, I don't understand the world."

Also gunned down while trying to save lives was Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's department.

Helus, 54, was married with a son. He called his wife just before he went into the bar, where he was killed in a shootout with the lone gunman. "I gotta go. I love you, I'll call you later," his boss, Sheriff Geoff Dean, quoted him as saying.

a man wearing glasses posing for the camera: Image: Sgt. Ron Helus © Santa Barbara County Sheriff Image: Sgt. Ron Helus

Helus "gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero," Dean said.

Another victim was Alaina Housley, an 18-year-old student at Pepperdine University and the niece of actress Tamera Mowry-Housley.

Mowry-Housley and her husband, former Fox News correspondent Adam Housley, had also spent the night trying to find out what had happened to their loved one. Housley went to the Los Robles Medical Center at 3:30 in the morning to look for her, and told the Los Angeles Times he feared the worst, because her Apple Watch and iPhone showed her location was still at the bar.

"My gut is saying she's inside the bar, dead," he told the paper. "I'm hoping I'm wrong."

Hours later, he discovered he wasn't.

a woman holding a birthday cake: Alaina Housley © via Facebook Alaina Housley

"Our heart is broken," the husband and wife 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."

Law-enforcement officials have identified the shooter as Ian David Long, a former Marine.

Another of the slain, Daniel Manrique, was a former Marine as well.

"My brother was a veteran who wanted to help fellow recovering veterans in re-entering society and gave his all to supporting veteran mental health," his brother Marcos Manrique wrote on Instagram, according to KNBC. "He ran in to help people escape the violence and ultimately gave his life protecting others. Describing the pain would not do it justice. I'll be remembering a hero, a brother, and a role model."

Jason Coffman, 41, spoke to reporters outside of the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, where relatives searching for loved ones who are unaccounted for had been told to gather.

Coffman said he had last spoken to his son right before he left to go out with friends to the Borderline Bar - a regular Wednesday night ritual.

"I talked to him last night before he headed out the door. First thing I said was, 'Please don't drink and drive.' The last thing I said was, 'Son, I love you.' That was the last thing I said," Coffman recalled, melting into tears.

a person wearing a helmet posing for the camera: Cody Coffman © Courtesy Jason Coffman Cody Coffman

Coffman told the Times he had been awoken by his son's friends pounding on his door at about 1 am telling him there had been a shooting at the bar - and they couldn't find Cody, who'd gone to buy his friends a round of drinks.

Cody had three younger brothers and a little sister on the way, Coffman said.

"I cannot believe this has happened to my family," Coffman said. "I am speechless and heartbroken."

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