PORTLAND, Ore. (HILLSBORO TRIBUNE) — As the country mourned mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that left a combined 31 people dead and dozens injured over the weekend, a quiet family funeral in Hillsboro laid to rest the body of a man with Hillsboro ties who was killed in a mass shooting last year.
Justin Meek, 23, was shot and killed at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, in 2018. The shooting injured 23 people and left a dozen dead, including a Ventura County sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman, David Long, who shot himself.
Meek is the great-great-great grandson of Joseph Meek, a noted politician and pioneer who worked to make Oregon a federal territory in 1848. Joseph Meek was the first elected sheriff of what was then known as the Oregon Country and was later a U.S. marshal. He lived in Hillsboro and is buried at The Tualatin Plains Presbyterian Church, also known as The Old Scotch Church, 30685 N.W. Scotch Church Road.
Generations of the Meek family are buried at the cemetery. Justin Meek’s ashes were buried next to Joseph Meek on Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Justin Meek’s mother, Laura Lynn Meek, said, while her son never lived in Oregon — he was raised in southern California — she believed he would have been proud to be next to the man he looked up to all his life.
Justin Meek planned to join the U.S. Coast Guard, and hoped to become a U.S. marshal like his ancestor.
“He grew up on the history of our family,” Laura Lynn Meek said.
When Justin was in elementary school, she recalled, he did a presentation on Joseph Meek and the founding of Oregon.
“I painted a beard on him with stage makeup,” Laura Lynn Meek recalled.
The family held memorials in California after the shooting, but said they wanted some of their son’s ashes to be laid to rest with the rest of the Meek family in Hillsboro.
“It’s hard, but it’s also nice to be with immediate family and have the headstone down and his ashes laid here,” his sister, Victoria Rose Meek, said. “My brother loved the history of our family. He loved to talk about it and he really saw himself as a true mountain man.”
Justin Meek died Nov. 7, 2018, while working at the Borderline club. According to witnesses, Meek smashed out a window and ushered people out of the bar to safety before his death.
“He died a hero,” Lauren Lynn Meek said. “He died doing what he was training to do: To serve and protect.”
Meek recently had graduated from California Lutheran University. School officials said Meek “heroically saved lives in the incident.”
After the shooting, members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office visited California to pay their respects to Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who also died in the shooting.
At a memorial outside the Borderline club, the family recognized the Washington County patches on their uniforms and began talking.
“They said, ‘Washington County? In Oregon?’ Nobody knows where that is outside of the Portland area,” Sheriff’s detective Mark Povoly said. “They told us about Justin and his connection to Hillsboro. They asked, ‘Do you know Joseph Meek?’ We said, ‘The first sheriff?'”
Wednesday’s memorial service was attended by Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, and the sheriff’s office’s command staff, who presented the family with a commemorative badge depicting 1843 — the year Joseph Meek was elected sheriff — and 2018, the year of Justin Meek’s death.
Recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, dominated headlines before Wednesday’s memorial service. The family said the string of mass shootings across the country make it difficult to heal.
“Every time there’s another one, it takes us back,” Lauren Lynn Meek said. “It’s like re-opening the wound, every time.”
Laura Lynn Meek said she doesn’t know what the answer is to stopping the shootings, but said something must be done; likely a combination of things.
“When is enough going to be enough?” his sister, Victoria Rose Meek, said. “I mentioned the shooting to someone recently and they said, ‘Which one?’ It’s sad it’s become so regular in our society. It’s like a plague. I don’t know what’s going on.”
“This is something we have to live with,” she continued. “The trauma doesn’t really go away. You talk about it in therapy, but it changes you forever.”
She said it’s important to keep the victims in your memories, and to share stories with those who have lost loved ones.
“People tiptoe around this subject, but we love when people say his name and remember him,” Victoria Rose Meek said. “It’s OK to say his name and all the names of all the victims. Us talking about their memories is what keeps them alive.”