Shattered dreams for young Fil-Am

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Routine blood-letting Mourners attend a vigil for victims of the mass shooting at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in California. Twelve people including Filipino-American Alaina Punzalan Housley were killed in the tragedy. AFP

Eighteen-year old Filipino-American Alaina Punzalan Housley, in the words of her kin was everything a parent could hope for in a child: kind, smart, beautiful, respectful and dreamt of someday becoming a lawyer.

But her life was cut short when a US Marine combat veteran opened fire at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California where she and her college friends were partying.

Aside from Alaina, 11 others, many of them college students, were also killed in the shooting spree.

The shooter, Ian David Long, 28, a former machine gunner and Afghanistan war veteran was also found dead.

The 18-year-old Filipino American recently moved to the area to study in Pepperdine University, the same school where her parents met.

Straight A student

Her grandfather, Ernie Punzalan said in a TV interview that Alaina was “straight A” student who loved playing the piano and violin.

She was an English major at Pepperdine University with dreams of studying law.

Punzalan narrated that Alaina was taking a breather after dancing for several minutes when the shooter arrived before opening fire on the crowd indiscriminately.

Her friends who were on the dance floor managed to run for safety leaving Alaina behind.
Punzalan bemoaned that his granddaughter had big dreams and full life ahead of her but her life was cut short by a man in a senseless act of violence.

Shock and sadness now loom over the Housley family as their kin, Alaina, was identified among the 12 victims in the Borderline Bar and Grill massacre earlier this week.

Tragic roster

A report by Associated Press said terrified patrons hurled barstools through windows to escape or threw their bodies protectively on top of friends to escape the carnage.

Dressed all in black with his hood pulled up, the gunman apparently took his own life as scores of police converged on the establishment.

The motive of the rampage late Wednesday night was under investigation.

Opening fire with a handgun with an illegal, extra-capacity magazine, Long shot a security guard outside the bar and then went in and took aim at employees and customers, authorities said.

Smoke bomb

He also used a smoke bomb, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The dead included a man who had survived last year’s massacre in Las Vegas, a veteran sheriff’s deputy who rushed in to confront the gunman, a 22-year-old man who planned to join the Army, a freshman at nearby Pepperdine University and a recent Cal Lutheran graduate.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said in the parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”

Survivors of the rampage — mostly young people who had gone out for college night at the Borderline, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University and other schools — seemed to know what to do, having come of age in an era of active-shooter drills and deadly rampages happening with terrifying frequency.

Not new

For some it was not a new experience. Survivors and their relatives said several people who were at the bar Thursday had been at the outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas last year where a gunman in a high-rise hotel killed 58 people.

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts,” said Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, whose son Telemachus Orfanos survived the Vegas shooting only to die less than 10 minutes from his home.

“I want those bastards in Congress — they need to pass gun control so no one else has a child that doesn’t come home.”

Many of the estimated 150 patrons at the Borderline dived under tables, ran for exits, broke through windows or hid in the attic and bathrooms, authorities and witnesses said.

10 gunshots

A video posted on Instagram after the shooting by one of the patrons shows an empty dance floor with the sound of windows shattering in the background. As a silhouetted figure comes through a doorway, the camera turns erratically and 10 gunshots ring out.

“I looked him in his eyes while he killed my friends,” Dallas Knapp wrote on his post. “I hope he rots in hell for eternity.”

The tragedy left a community that is annually listed as one of the safest cities in America reeling.

Shootings of any kind are extremely rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Los Angeles, just across the county line.

Mourners gathered for a vigil on Wednesday evening as smoke from a fast-moving, nearby wildfire billowed over them.

Jason Coffman received the news that his son Cody, 22, who was about to join the Army, was dead. Coffman broke down as he told reporters how his last words to his son as he went out that night were not to drink and drive and that he loved him.

“Oh, Cody, I love you, son,” Coffman sobbed.

It was the nation’s deadliest such attack since 17 students and teachers were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Gun culture

Democratic Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, in his first public appearance since winning office on Tuesday, lamented the violence that has returned to California.

“It’s a gun culture,” he said. “You can’t go to a bar or nightclub? You can’t go to church or synagogue? It’s insane is the only way to describe it. The normalization, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s become normalized.”

President Donald Trump praised police for their “great bravery” in the attack and ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

Authorities searched Long’s home in Newbury Park, about 5 miles from the Borderline bar, for clues to what set him off.

“There’s no indication that he targeted the employees. We haven’t found any correlation,” the sheriff said. “Maybe there was a motive for this particular night, but we have no information leading to that at all.”

Long’s record

Long was in the Marines from 2008 to 2013, rose to the rank of corporal and served in Afghanistan in 2010-11 before he was honorably discharged, the military said.

Court records show he married in 2009 and was divorced in 2013.

Authorities said he had no criminal record, but in April officers were called to his home where deputies found him angry and acting irrationally.

The sheriff said officers were told he might have PTSD because of his military service. A mental health specialist met with him and didn’t feel he needed to be hospitalized.

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