Kent Justice shares personal connection to Thousand Oaks

Gunman opened fire at bar in California city killing 12

Kent Justice (center) with college friends

“It can happen anywhere.” 
“Why is it happening again?”

Those are phrases that flooded social media and personal conversations following the massacre at a bar in southern California on Wednesday night.

Those are phrases I’ve considered in the hours since that shooting took a dozen lives. A big part of that emotional reaction for me is the name “Pepperdine.”

Early reports identified the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks as a place that students enjoyed, including students from my alma mater, Pepperdine University.

Eventually, the university confirmed 16 students were in the bar when a 28 year old war veteran opened fire. Two students were injured, and one of them killed. Adam Housley’s niece Alaina died. I had never met that 18 year old freshman, but her uncle is someone I know from my time there both as a student, then as a graduate assistant and adjunct professor, then as an employee at the school’s business administration division.

Pepperdine is in Malibu, 20 miles away from Borderline, and about the same drive-time as going from St. Augustine to the St. Johns Town Center. I had never been to Borderline, but several of my college friends say they spent time there. At this point in life (I graduated in 1990), many of us have children who attend college, some of them children attending Pepperdine.

A lifelong friend was a co-worker, and now is a professor at Pepperdine. She told me today you could feel it on campus, you could feel the sadness. She also told me she is grateful university leadership decided to keep the school open and to continue classes as scheduled.

That decision allowed students to interact with faculty and staff, and to both express their concerns or frustrations or fears and to offer their support to each other in their mourning.

I am connected to Pepperdine, and I’m connected to Thousand Oaks. My wife and I lived there our first year of marriage. Even though that was 25 years ago, a tragedy like this elicits the kind of question I mentioned earlier, and the somber realization that, indeed, “It can happen anywhere.”

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