Vigil held for Napa teen killed in Thousand Oaks mass shooting, activists decry gun violence

Wine country is reeling with word that one of their own - a college freshman who grew up in the Napa Valley- is among the massacre victims in Southern California. 

On Thursday evening, two vigils were held to honor and mourn 18 year old Alaina Housley, a 2018 graduate of Vintage High School. 

"She was by far the best person you could have in your life," said classmate Erin Shea, one of several speakers to address a crowd that gathered on the high school soccer field in Napa. "She always had the biggest smile on her face. She was a beast on the soccer field, an outstanding student, and a supporter of everyone's dreams." 

he Housley family has deep Napa roots: with a grocery business and active in civic affairs, plus Alaina's mother Hannah teaches at Vintage High and her brother Alex is a freshman there. 

"We are a small town and a small county," said Napa Mayor Jill Techel sadly, remembering the excitement and pride the Housleys felt at sending their daughter to Pepperdine University, their alma mater. "I saw that and thought what a magical parental moment and now this is one of those awful, awful moments."

Thursday morning, with Alaina missing, father Arik posted on facebook: " Heading to LA to see what's the situation. Last night Alaina and her friends headed out to go line dancing." But confirmation came before their flight touched down, and police chaplains were there to meet them.  

"I cried this morning when I got the phone call about what happened," U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson told the crowd.

The Democrat is a longtime congressman representing the Napa Valley, and a prominent advocate for gun reform. 

"This tragedy senselessly took the life of a beautiful young woman, beautiful on the outside, beautiful on the inside," said Thompson, urging the community to stand together and against gun violence, so that more innocent lives are not "snatched away." 

"We must that we'll do everything in our power to put an end to this senseless violence," declared Thompson. 

Arik Housley posted a statement on Facebook, read aloud at the vigil, describing Alaina as "everything we could hope for in a child: kind, smart, beautiful and respectful."

He also wrote of Alaina: "She would have enjoyed the public debate that is certain to happen after this tragedy. But she would have insisted that it be respectful with an eye toward solving these senseless shootings. It's time for leadership in our country to step up". 

And in neighboring Yountville, where the family lives and is active in the community, another vigil also drew several hundred people.  

"When are we going to change this, when are we going to stop this access to guns?" said a tearful Maurita Dorenbecker, Yountville's vice mayor. "During Yountville Days we have a big parade and picnic and she and her dad were always there."

Counselors were available to staff and students at Vintage High throughout the day, and at the soccer field, people were offered pens and notepaper to leave messages for the Housley family.

"She's probably the person who would have organized something like this," said school Sarah O'Connor, who choked-up describing Alaina as "the young person we want all of our children to be." 

Said O'Connor: "She's the athlete who never stops trying, the student who never stops studying, she's the leader who never stops connecting."

Former student Shea urged attendees to cherish each day, and each other. "Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them, because you never know when that's going to be the last time."