THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Jason Coffman waited anxiously, standing outside a building where victims of the Thousand Oaks mass shooting were being reunited with family.
It had been several hours since shots broke out at the Borderline Bar & Grill late Wednesday night. Fifty to 60 families gathered at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center in search of missing loved ones.
Jason remembers saying goodbye to his son, Cody, who went to the bar every Wednesday for its “College Country Night.” After hearing of the shooting, he pinged his son’s phone and called him repeatedly.
But the phone kept ringing.
On Thursday morning, he shared a tearful phone call with authorities who told him his son had been shot.
A short time later, just before 10 a.m., he received the news he said would forever change his life.
“The companionship that I had with my son, the companionship that my son had with his brothers,” Jason said, breaking into tears as he embraced his father-in-law and kept his arm wrapped around him.
“This is not going to be easy for our family for a very long time,” he said.
Jason said he and his son would go fishing together and he coached Cody in baseball until high school. Conejo Valley Little League mourned the 22-year-old’s death in a heartfelt tribute on Twitter.
Hug your players close tonight, as Camarillo Pony Baseball mourns the loss of former player, current umpire and dad, Cody Coffman. We at CVLL extend our sincerest condolences to the league and the family of this fine man. pic.twitter.com/2gN8NTg1tC
— Conejo Valley LL (@ConejoValleyLL) November 8, 2018
Cody had dreams of joining the military and was speaking with recruiters before he was killed, according to his father.
“My son was on his way to fulfill his dream of serving the country,” Jason said.
The Ventura County native leaves behind four siblings, including a sister on the way, stepbrother and 8- and 6-year-old brothers he often bonded with, his father said.
“He wanted to be the big brother to these two boys and sister who’s coming,” Jason said.
As he spoke to reporters about his son’s death, Jason expressed his distress at the pain that would be felt by other families in the coming hours.
“I don’t know what to say to the other people that are going to be going through the situation I am,” he said. “I’m speechless, heartbroken.”
Reflecting on how he would get through his own pain, Jason held on tightly to his father-in-law, Mike Johnston, saying “I love this man.” He plans to seek the help of his pastor and church but wonders how he will get through.
“I don’t know how, I don’t know how,” he said, before breaking into tears as he held onto his father-in-law.
“We have a faith in our God, in our Christ,” Johnston said.
“Life is fragile,” Johnston said, his voice choking. “It’s precious, it’s sacred. We should cherish it.”
Before finding out about his son’s death, Jason said he was trying to prepare for the worst.
“If the Lord took him away, we know that he’s in a better place,” he said.
As he first spoke with reporters after getting the news, Jason recalled the last words he spoke to his son.
“First thing I said was ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’ Last thing I said was ‘Son, I love you.'”