Greg Zanis, who has been building crosses to remember shooting
victims for more than two decades, said he arrived in Thousand
Oaks, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, early on Sunday morning
to meet the families and put up the crosses.
"I'm working for the families. I always bring a double set. I
sand them, I paint them, I put hearts on them and I put their
names on them. I also put their photo on there in black and
white as a ghost. It's the most personal gift a carpenter can
give to a grieving family," Zanis, 67, told Reuters.
A former U.S. Marine combat veteran opened fire last week in the
Borderline Bar and Grill bar, which was packed with line-dancing
college students, killing 12 people in a mass shooting that
stunned Thousand Oaks, a bucolic Southern California community
with a reputation for safety.
The gunman, identified by police as 28-year-old Ian David Long,
was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound
following the massacre.
Zanis said he had returned from Pittsburgh, where he had
delivered 11 Stars of David in remembrance of the worshippers
shot dead on Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue, before
setting out for Thousand Oaks in his truck filled with crosses.
The master carpenter said he began his one-man mission in 1996
when he found the body of his father-in-law, who had been shot
In 1999, he erected 13 crosses in Colorado in honor of the
victims of the shooting rampage at Columbine High School, where
12 students and a teacher were killed.
Zanis makes the crosses by hand and drives to each site in his
truck, making a 4,000-mile round trip for the Thousand Oaks
shooting. He accepts only small donations to help pay for gas.
He said he would stop in Las Vegas on the way home to deliver a
cross to the brother of shooting victim Justin Meeks before
starting on a series of crosses to memorialize victims of the
"I'm going to go home and start making as many as I can. I'm
going to need a trailer to carry that many on my next trip," he
(Reporting by Dana Feldman,; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by
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