A former Coronado High School student has died after a shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar and grill during a popular college night event, according to Cal Lutheran University.
Justin Meek, 23, was working as a bouncer when gunfire erupted at Borderline Bar & Grill during its weekly "College Country Nights" popular with the 18-and-up crowd late Wednesday, according to friends and the university.
His sister was also at the bar at the time of the shooting, according to family friend Laurie Ruiz De Castilla, who was at a prayer vigil for Meek on Coronado Island Thursday afternoon.
"They've been looking for him. I know his sister is good, she got out so that's good news," Castilla said.
Twelve people were confirmed dead early Thursday, including a Ventura County sheriff's deputy, as family members gathered at a reunification center awaiting word about their loved ones, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office (VCSD) said.
Cal Lutheran University said they were informed by the family that Meek, a graduate of their school, had died in the shooting.
"Meek heroically saved lives in the incident," a statement from the university said.
A 2014 graduate of Coronado High School, Meek was described as an active member of the community and an avid Coronado "Islander," the school's mascot.
"There's never been a better "Islander" in his Tiki uniform that could get the crowd and spirit going," Sue Shirey said. "They haven't been able to replace him since."
The prayer vigil was held for Meek at a Coronado community park Thursday afternoon. At an evening candlelight vigil at Spreckels Park, Meek's former teacher Casey Tanaka described him as genuine and someone who was always willing to put himself out there to put a smile on others' faces.
"The only solace for me is that he impacted so many lives in such a positive way. I can't think of any other 23-year-old who has done that. Who has been so selfless in the terms of just bringing friendship and joy to others," Tanaka said.
He also said he wasn't surprised to hear that Meek would try to help others while his own life was in danger.
Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey called the showing at the memorial a reflection of the island community.
"It's a reflection of how many lives Justin was able to touch. Justin was the kind of guy that was always full of positivity, always had a smile on his face. The guy never had a bad day and he just had so much love to give, so I think what we saw today was all the love the community had for him," Bailey said.
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, according to friends of the family. A party was planned for his retirement on Coronado Island this weekend.
"Everyone will rally around them to help them get through with whatever they need," Castilla said. "We're close-knit, we're all like family here in Coronado."
Cal Lutheran was also holding a vigil for Meek at their chapel on Thursday. A prayer would be held later that evening.
"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," the statement said.
Borderline Bar & Grill is less than seven miles from Cal Lutheran and is close to several colleges and universities, including Pepperdine, Moorpark and Cal State Channel Islands.
"It's been a bad night. Wednesdays (are) the most popular because it's college night, just a bunch of lively kids, different colleges all the way from Ventura, all the way down to the Valley," bar regular Carl Edgar said.
Patrons described breaking windows and diving under tables in an attempt to escape gunfire.
"Everyone was under the table so it was hard to get under there. By the grace of God I got to the front door," said Sarah Rose DeSon of Whittier, a communications major at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo.
VCSD Sergeant Ron Helus was one of the first officers to enter the bar after reports of gunfire. He was met by gunfire as he confronted the shooter, Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Hundreds of people were inside when the gunman, identified by law enforcement as 28-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Ian David Long, began shooting. He first shot a security guard outside and several employees upon entering before turning to the right and opening fire on the crowd, Dean said.
Long served with the USMC from August 2008 to March 2014 and was deployed to Afghanistan as a machine gunner in 2010. He used a legally purchased Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun equipped with an extended magazine, Dean said.
According to the VCSD sheriff, the extension is illegal in California.
Law enforcement officials have not identified a motive for the shooting. The Federal Bureau of Investigations was working with VCSD investigators.
San Diego County is less than 150 miles south of where the shooting occurred and local law enforcement and officials offered their support Thursday morning.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore called Sgt. Ron Helus a hero who, "along with the other first responders, rushed in at their own great peril to save countless lives of people they did not even know."
The city of Vista said it would fly the American flag at half-staff at all of its facilities through Saturday at sunset, "as a mark of respect for the victims of the Thousand Oaks tragedy. The City offers its deepest condolences to the victims and their families."
California Senator Toni Atkins thanked law enforcement for their quick actions to save others.
"I grieve with the Thousand Oaks community and all Californians on the senseless death of so many of their loved ones."
This story will be updated as information becomes available. Please refresh this story for the latest.