One Year Later: Army Veteran Recalls Friends’ Heroic Last Moments During Borderline Shooting

One year ago, a mass shooter opened fire during college night at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, killing 12 people.

Garrett Gratland, an Army veteran from Newbury Park, arrived at Borderline shortly before the shooting began.

Gratland, 25, posed for a picture with Telemachus Orfanos, Justin Meek and a handful of his other friends just moments before an armed former Marine walked into the bar on Nov. 7. Orfanos and Meek, who worked security at the bar, didn't survive the shooting that night.

"I wish I could go back to this moment," Gratland said, looking at the photograph again. "I'm glad we caught this memory."

Gratland was joking around with his friends at a booth about a grilled cheese sandwich when the shooter entered the bar.

As a veteran, Gratland immediately responded to the situation. Another friend of his punched through a window at the table, and Gratland helped get the young women with him out into the parking lot.

More of his friends escaped during this time, as well.

"We all regrouped across the street at the gas station and we kind of like did a roll call," Gratland said. "And that's when I hear ... some of my friends calling out Justin's name and Tel's name and they're like 'where is he?'"

Gratland said he knew in that moment that those friends of his has not survived.

He remembered seeing Meek hold his arms up right before being shot.

"I saw ... his last little move of heroism," Gratland said. "Tel also did the same thing. He actually rushed the guy and died in a heroic fashion. I'm honored to know such people like this."

When Ventura County Sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene, Gratland offered to help them. Deputies stormed the bar while Gratland waited outside. Gratland remembered hearing a thunderstorm of gunfire.

Moments later, the deputies asked Gratland to help carry the body of Sergeant Ron Helus to a squad car. Helus was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital hours later.

"There are still ... regrets that I hadn't done more, but you know, thinking logically about it, there's not much I could have done unarmed," Gratland said.

Gratland came to the memorial site to pay homage to Meek through one of their shared passions: the bagpipes. Meek was a talented musician who planned to learn how to play the bagpipes before he died.

"I learned shortly after the shooting, learned how to play the bagpipes for him," Gratland said. "When people ask why I play, I get to tell his story and have his legacy spread a little farther."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of a name.

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