Madison Fuller reacts as she watches Nov. 8 from an overpass during a procession with the body of Sgt. Ron Helus of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. Helus, who died in a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., was a 29-year veteran who was set to retire this year. (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

Archbishop Gomez: ‘Pray hard’ for all affected by Calif. shooting

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. | Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged those attending a prayer vigil Nov. 8 to honor the memory of the victims killed in a shooting spree the evening before “by living our lives with greater intensity and purpose and with greater love for one another.”

“May our Lord in his mercy receive the souls of those who have died, and may he comfort those of us who have been spared,” he told the congregation at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church in Thousand Oaks. “We pray for peace in our communities and for peace in the hearts of all those who are troubled and disturbed.”

Late Nov. 7, a gunman opened fire at a country-music bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles from the heart of Los Angeles.

Thirteen people, including the suspected gunman and a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, died in shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill on what was college night, with lessons on country two-step dancing.

The bar is popular with students at nearby California Lutheran University, and also attracts students from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Moorpark College in Moorpark and California State University-Channel Islands in Camarillo.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Nov. 8 that the suspected gunman, Ian David Long, had legally purchased the weapon used in the shooting. It came less than two weeks after a gunman murdered 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, which was the largest mass murder in the United States since 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Feb. 14.

According to the Associated Press, after Sgt. Ron Helus was shot multiple times and dragged outside the bar by his partner — he died early Nov. 8 at a nearby hospital — scores of police assembled outside and burst in later to find Long and 11 others dead. Eighteen others were injured.

Long, who had been wearing a black hood during the spree, was a former U.S. Marine machine gunner, and authorities said he may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the vigil, Archbishop Gomez told the congregation he brought with him “the prayers of the whole family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

“We are all so sad in the face of a violence that just makes no sense. We open our hearts to the families and friends of those who were killed, and we try as best we can to share their grief with them,” he continued.

“The hurt they are suffering, we can never really know. What they have lost, we cannot return to them. But we can walk with them. We can help them to find healing and hope. We can help them to discover the love of Jesus, even in this dark time.”

In a statement issued the morning of Nov. 8 in reaction to news of the shooting, Archbishop Gomez asked people to “pray hard” for the victims and their families.

“Like many of you, I woke this morning to news of the horrible violence last night at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks,” he said.

“Let us pray hard for all the families, for those who were murdered and those who were injured, and in a special way for the heroic officer, Sgt. Ron Helus, who lost his life defending people in the attack. May God grant perpetual light to those who have died and may he bring comfort to their loved ones and peace to our community.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Nov. 8 statement asked all to pray “for the victims and their loved ones and all those impacted by this senseless violence.” He also called for the enactment of reasonable measures to end gun violence.

“We must bring this tragedy to the Lord in prayer,” said the cardinal. “This new incident of gun violence strikes just as the funerals are barely complete from the last mass shooting.

He added: More innocent lives are lost because of one individual and his ability to procure weapons and commit violence. The bishops continue to ask that public policies be supported that would enact reasonable gun measures to help curb this mad loss of life.”

“Only love can truly defeat evil,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement. “Love begets love, and peace begets peace, but anger, hatred and violence breed more of the same.”

Another vigil for the shooting victims was held Nov. 8 at the Fred Kavli Theater in Thousands Oaks, drawing hundreds of mourners.