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By James Rainey and Dareh Gregorian
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — A father’s desperate search for his son ended in crushing heartbreak in Thousand Oaks, where a dozen people were slain when a gunman opened fire late Wednesday inside a crowded dance hall.
“I’ve been here fighting for him all morning long, and we did just get the news that he was one of the  that were killed last night,” Jason Coffman, 41, told reporters Thursday as he choked back tears. “His name was Cody Coffman, my first-born son.”
“Only him and I know how much I love … how much I miss, miss him,” Coffman said, holding his fist to his heart as he struggled to speak. “Oh, son! I love you so much.”
The father’s grief cut deep in this suburban Los Angeles community — recently named the third-safest city in America — where families now touched by gun violence were coping with irreplaceable loss.
Cody Coffman, 22, was a youth baseball umpire who’d planned to join the Army, according to his dad.
Jason Coffman spoke with reporters outside of the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, where relatives searching for loved ones who were unaccounted for had been told to gather.
Jason Coffman said he had last spoken to his son right before he left to go out with friends to the Borderline Bar and Grill — a 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.
Coffman told the Los Angeles Times that he had been awakened by his son’s friends pounding on his door at about 1 a.m. telling him that there had been a shooting at the bar — and that 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.”
Telemachus Orfanos, 27, was a survivor of the shooting last year in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 58 at the Route 91 Harvest festival. He had also been a Navy SEAL, said his father, Marc.
“He was a survivor of Las Vegas and how ironic, right,” Marc Orfanos said. “And [he] was a bit of a gun enthusiast. … You know who I hold responsible for this — the gun culture, OK.”
Justin Meek, 23, an alumnus of California Lutheran University, was killed, as well. The university said he “heroically saved lives in the incident.”
Cal Lutheran students said witnesses told them that Meek jumped in front of his sister and others to shield them.
“Everything he did was really brave,” said Meek’s friend Lala Lyman, who wasn’t at the bar. “It was heroic. We lost someone truly great.”
“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.
Meek graduated from Cal Lutheran in May — as did his mother, friends told NBC News.
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, 48, a married father of two, was working at Borderline to make extra money, his sister Valarie Adler told NBC Los Angeles.
“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.”
Sgt. Ron Helus
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 gunman.
“I gotta go. I love you, I’ll call you later,” his boss, Sheriff Geoff Dean, quoted him as saying.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow said Helus “had every intention of going in there and ending that threat and saving lives.”
“Unfortunately, he was just met immediately with gunfire,” Buschow said. “It’s a tragic loss for all of us, for the community.”
Another victim was Alaina Housley, 18, a student at Pepperdine University and the niece of the actress Tamera Mowry-Housley. The university said she was from Napa, California, and was a freshman majoring in English.
Mowry-Housley and her husband, former Fox News correspondent Adam Housley, spent the night trying to find out what had happened to Alaina. Adam Housley, who went to Los Robles Medical Center at 3:30 in the morning to look for her, told the Times that he feared the worst because her Apple Watch and her iPhone showed that her location was still at the bar.
Housley later issued a statement on behalf of Alaina’s parents, which said, in part: “Words can’t describe our grief over losing our daughter, Alaina. She was everything we could hope for in a child: kind, smart, beautiful and respectful.”
Madeleine Carr, a junior majoring in journalism who once interviewed Housley, said she quickly became a prominent member of the college community.
“She’s only been here since August, and she’d already found her way into choir and mock trial and all these different facets of the community,” Carr said. “Usually, you see people just getting involved in one — not all. And she seemed to have found her way into a lot of people’s hearts.”