Justin Meek, a 23-year-old California Lutheran University graduate, tragically lost his life Wednesday night when a gunman opened fire at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Meek died “heroically” and “saved lives in the incident,” according to a statement released by California Lutheran University.
Meek lost his life when gunman Ian Long, a black-clad ex-Marine with mental health troubles, opened fire shortly before 11:30 p.m. local time on November 7, killing 12 and wounding several more in a horrific scene in which people hid in bathrooms and smashed windows out to try to escape. A sheriff’s sergeant was among those who were killed.
Borderline Bar & Grill was attacked during its weekly “College Country Nights,” a popular event for the 18-and-up college crowd. Meek was a bouncer at the bar, and died while helping others escape the massacre. Meek’s sister was also at the bar at the time of the shooting, but survived the attack.
Meek initially survived the shooting and was reported in critical condition before the university confirmed his death Thursday morning.
Here’s what we know about Meek:
Meek Was Breaking Windows and Helping Others Escape When He Was Killed
Meek graduated from Coronado High School in 2014 and went on to study at California Lutheran University before his life was cut short by the gunman. He was a bouncer at Borderline Bar & Grill and was attempting to break windows and help others escape when he was shot and killed. Meek worked at the bar for about a year, according to friends and family.
Friends and loved ones reached out on Twitter, asking desperately for news of Meek, who was still missing shortly after the gunman opened fire at the bar.
According to NBC San Diego, Meek’s father was a Navy man set to retire this weekend and move to the Los Angeles area to be closer to his children, friends of the family told the outlet. A party was planned for his retirement on Coronado Island this weekend.
When the news broke that Meek was among the victims of the shooting, tributes started pouring in, honoring Meek as a hero who “acted as a barricade and saved dozens of lives.”
“RIP Justin Meek. You’re the embodiment of the word ‘Hero,'” one person wrote on Twitter. Another wrote: “Unbelievable. Rest in peace Justin Meek. You are a hero and will never ever be forgotten.”
“Justin is a great kid. Really sweet and full of life…big in music and a big part of the community,” a friend told 10News.
Meek’s Facebook profile, which is now a memorial page, is filled with smiling pictures of Meek surrounded by friends and loved ones. Meek studied Criminology and Criminal Justice at California Lutheran University, enjoyed fishing and played the guitar, according to pictures and the bio on his profile.
Back in August, Meek posted a flier on his Facebook page promoting College Country Night at Borderline Bar & Grill, the same weekly event that was going on the night he was shot and killed.
“Justin meek was such a sweet, caring person,” another person wrote on Twitter. “I wish I’d been the friend to him that he was to me. And I wish I could go back and tell him what a good person he was and how much impact he had on my life. Tell people you love them. Tell them.”
Meek Worked With Autistic Youth, Volunteered His Time to Help Veterans & Enjoyed Singing in the School’s Choir
Paige Walters shared a photo of Meek dressed up as “Mr. Tiki” on the side of a pool, writing: “I’ll never forget him smiling as the mascot on deck while I coached Coronado H.S. water polo. He was his sister’s biggest fan and is a true, true hero for saving lives.”
According to the WayUp website, Meek was an Eagle Scout and a former City of Coronado and Coronado High School lifeguard. He also performed as Coronado High’s “Mr. Tiki” mascot before graduating in 2014.
“All he wanted to do was to protect us,” Fernan Diamse, a senior at the university Meek attended, told BuzzFeed News. Meek was described as being like “a giant teddy bear walking around campus with a great voice,” Diamse said at the prayer service held for Meek following his death.
Over the last year Meek had been working with a young man with autism, assisting with social skills and taking him out in the community, the man’s mother, Jennifer McNulty, told BuzzFeed News.
Casey Morrison, 25, who worked as a promoter at Borderline, said Justin was a “fun, bright and bubbly” person who enjoyed teaching line dancing to bar patrons.
“He had amazing energy and I don’t think I ever saw him upset,” Morrison said. “He was like a big teddy bear. He would always give me a big hug every time I walked in; he was always the first person I saw either walking up to the line or walking inside and he constantly had a smile on his face. He didn’t deserve this.”
While at Cal Lutheran, Meek worked at the veterans resource office, according to BuzzFeed. “His gregarious and outgoing attitude allowed him to instantly bond with the veterans who entered the office,” Jenn Zimmerman, the university’s veterans coordinator, said in a statement.
Meek’s parents are veterans, and he was planning on joining the US Coast Guard, Zimmerman added. While waiting to enlist, he helped out on campus and was planning to cook for the school’s upcoming Veterans Day celebration. He also sang in the school’s choir, singing carols during the holidays and performing the national anthem at graduation.
“The busier he was, the more he interacted with his peers, the more he thrived,” Zimmerman told BuzzFeed. “He was a kind and compassionate person who really cared for others.”
California Lutheran University Released a Statement Praising Meek for His Heroics During the Final Moments of His Life
Meek’s death was confirmed by his family and former college. California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball released a statement saying the school was informed by the victim’s family that Meek recently graduated from the school.
“The Cal Lutheran community is filled with sorrow over the violent events that took place last night a few miles from campus in Thousand Oaks. Sadly, we have learned from the family that a recent graduate, Justin Meek, 23, is one of the precious lives cut short in this tragedy. Meek heroically saved lives in the incident.
Today at 11:25 a.m. in Samuelson Chapel, the campus community will gather together in its first public act of mourning. At 6 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. in the same chapel, there will be a Catholic Rosary and then a campus gathering. All are welcome to attend.
We will pray, begin to comfort one another in our grief, and hold the families, friends and loved ones of the victims in our hearts. Cal Lutheran wraps its arms around the Meek family and other families, and around every member of this community of caring,” Kimball said.
The school also encouraged the community to give blood to help those who were wounded in the shooting recover.
“We know that many community members are looking for ways to help and to reach out. We encourage you to give blood locally. To make a cash donation to support affected community members, visit the Ventura County Community Foundation at https://vccf.org/donate/make-a-donation/.”
A candlelight vigil will be held tonight (Nov. 8th) at Spreckels Park at 7 p.m., according to the Coronado Times. The flags on all City of Coronado facilities are lowered to half-staff by presidential proclamation until sunset on Saturday, Nov. 10, as a mark of respect for the victims of the shooting.
A verified GoFundMe page has been started to honor the victims of the shooting, and has raised nearly $32,000 of the $50,000 goal.
Other Victims Include a Sheriff Who Ran In To Rescue Others, a Bouncer Who Helped People Escape By Smashing Windows & an Eagle Scout Who Survived The Las Vegas Massacre, Only To Perish in Thousand Oaks
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office says one of its deputies, Sergeant Ron Helus, is among the dead. Helus died a hero, while rushing into the building to try to save the lives of other people still desperately trying to escape the bar. Helus, 54, was a 29-year veteran of the department and a married father who was planning to retire next year.
Blake Dingman, a 21-year-old Newbury Park native, also lost his life Wednesday night, as well as his close friend Jake Dunham, who were both in the bar at the time of the shooting. Dingman played high school baseball at Hilcrest Christian School, according to Kyle Jorrey, the editor of the Thousand Oaks Acorn. His former baseball coach told Jorrey that Dingman had a “magnetic personality,” and added, “He loved the game of baseball but he loved his friends and family even more.”
Telemachus Orfanos, an Eagle Scout, survived the Las Vegas massacre outside Mandalay Bay only to perish during the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. His mother gave a heart wrenching interview demanding gun control after her son didn’t come home from a second massacre.
“My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends and he came home. He didn’t come home last night, and I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody sends me anymore prayers. I want gun control. No more guns,” she said to a television station.
The other victims have also been identified: Cody Coffman, Alaina Housley, Daniel Manrique, Sean Adler, Noel Sparks, Kristina Morisette, Jake Dunham, and Mark Meza Jr.