California shooting sparks scare in local families with students at Pepperdine

November 09, 2018 07:26 AM

The deadly mass shooting in a Thousand Oaks California bar led to frantic phone calls and texts for some Rochester families with relatives attending Pepperdine University.  

"Very scary. Very scary," said Tiana Stephens whose daughter, Kaori-Mei Stephens, is a freshman at Pepperdine.

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When word of the incident erupted on Thursday morning, she hurried to make sure Kaori-Mei was safe.

"First, you want to reach your kids and make sure they're in their beds, and not anywhere near that scene, and then you want to give them a hug," she said. 

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department reports that 28-year-old Ian David Long shot and killed at least 12 people and then himself in the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night.

The bar was popular with students from surrounding schools, including Pepperdine. The university is 18 miles away from the bar. Stephens compared the drive to Thousand Oaks to a trip from Rochester to Henrietta. 

Wednesday nights were particularly well-liked because the bar admitted customers over 18 for a night of dancing.

"There are girls on the volleyball team that go every Wednesday," said Pepperdine sophomore Spencer Wickens of Irondequoit. "They go dancing, go square dancing and, for some reason last night, they didn't go so it's pretty fortunate."

Thursday morning was tense for Wickens' father, Cal Wickens, as he watched the news break from 2,300 miles away.

"Not really knowing," he said. "When we saw the newscast in the morning, what actually happened. And, as you're watching it for the next hour, it starts to unfold."  

Already believing his athlete son was nowhere near the bar on a weeknight, Wickens reached out for reassurance.

"I texted Spencer just to say, 'confirm you are in your bed," he said.  

"He said, 'actually I'm in my bed.'"

Cal Wickens had lived in the area of Malibu, Thousand Oaks, and Pepperdine. He remembered the area, Pepperdine in particular, as isolated islands of safety.  

His son said the incident had shaken up a close community.

"I had a friend say earlier that he'd heard it was ranked the third safest city in the United States, which is kind of scary. It just seems like anywhere can be attacked I guess nowadays," Spencer Wickens said.

On Thursday, Pepperdine hosted a service for victims and survivors.

Spencer Wickens predicted widespread support as the school family learned who the victims were, and families dealt with their grief.  

"I guess people are just trying to spread kindness and love with each other because Pepperdine is a small community," he said. "People just continue to show kindness and love towards each other and we come together. No one is, I think, alone."  


Charles Molineaux

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