A Ventura County native who others credit with saving their lives as bullets rained on a crowd of young people at Thousand Oaks' Borderline Bar & Grill last week became the first victim of the tragic shooting to be laid to rest on Wednesday.
Cody Gifford-Coffman, 22, is among 12 people killed last Wednesday, Nov. 7, when a gunman opened fire at a country music dance night popular with college students at the Western-style bar on Rolling Oaks Drive.
The Camarillo funeral home where his memorial was held was packed with friends, family and survivors of the massacre who hugged each other tearfully while paying their final respects. They said he would be remembered for a legacy of kindness and willingness to lay down his life for his friends.
Coffman's father, Jason Coffman, who has been outspoken in the tragedy's aftermath, spoke while standing above his son's open casket.
"I am honestly, truly broken," he told those assembled. "My heart is ripped out from my chest."
But, he added, he feels he's being carried by the strength of Cody's spirit.
"I feel Cody's presence with me, 100 percent," Jason said. "He's the one that's keeping me strong."
Sarah Rose DeSon, who survived the shooting, said she'll remember Cody as a hero who died while trying to shield others.
"Cody will forever be my as well as these girls' hero," she said, motioning to two others standing beside her.
DeSon recounted how he took the lead in directing others to safety as the violence unfolded.
"He said, 'Get down,' we got down; when he got up, we got up. He told us to leave, he told us to get out — and we got out," she said. "All of us know that we have Cody in our hearts and we have a guardian angel."
Cody was the oldest of four siblings, with a baby sister due later this month. He was also an athlete and umpire for PONY Baseball, and had aspired to join the armed forces.
Outside his funeral in the parking lot, friends honored the 22-year-old with what they said were some of his favorite line dances.
But others, including Cody's grandfather, said they're still having a tough time grappling with the horror of how he died.
Jason acknowledged that their family isn't alone.
"I need to say, I am so truly sorry to the other families going through the same grief as I'm going through," he said.
Eleven other victims have yet to be laid to rest, including Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, who was fatally shot amid an exchange of gunfire with the shooter.
The 29-year veteran of the force will be mourned at noon Thursday at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village and interred nearby at Pierce Brothers Valley Mortuary and Cemetery.