AUSTIN — When Coby Bridgman came home last Tuesday night — with seven grocery bags and his 1-year-old son in tow — he had a surprise for his fiancee: “7-Up” cake and a half-gallon of milk.
“He said, ‘Look what I got for you,’” said Elena Duncan, 29. “He heard me telling my sister on the phone that I was craving 7-Up cake and milk, so he bought 'em."
The couple fist-bumped and made plans to cozy up with cake and a movie later that night. As Duncan got the couple’s five kids ready for bed, Bridgman slipped outside for his nightly cigarette.
He turned the corner and walked down the 5600 block of West Washington Boulevard in search of a light, his family said. About 10:20 p.m., someone opened fire — fatally striking Bridgman, 29, in his head and grazing a second man — police said.
“I heard the shot,” Duncan said Friday. “It felt like somebody took my soul out of me. I knew it was him. I felt it.”
Duncan ran down the street and found Bridgman lying on the ground. He was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:09 a.m. Wednesday.
“I didn’t even touch” the cake, Duncan said. “It’s still in the microwave.”
Bridgman’s family believes he was an innocent bystander in a gang shooting. He was a quiet, respectful and humble “homebody,” relatives said Friday as they sat outside his house in the 100 block of North Waller Avenue.
Like his father and brothers, Bridgman was a practicing Muslim who had been fasting for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that runs from July 8 to Aug. 7 this year.
Police said Bridgman had documented gang ties in his youth. But it was unclear whether he was still involved with a gang at the time of his death.
With 27 college credits under his belt, Bridgman was back in school training to become a high-school basketball coach, Duncan said. He had been a star athlete and was almost drafted when he was younger, but “came up with the wrong crowd,” she said.
Bridgman was “great with kids” and “an amazing father,” Duncan said. He spent most of his time with his family, helping out around the house and playing with his five children: daughters ages 9, 6, 4 and 3; and a son, 1.
Duncan said she struggles with how to explain Bridgman’s death to their kids.
“My 6-year-old said, ‘Now we can’t go outside because we’ll get shot too,’” Duncan said. “And my 4-year-old told me: ‘Daddy’s gone. God kidnapped him.’
"My 9-year-old wants to know why they took him. 'Don’t they know he had kids? Don’t they know he was a good dad? Don’t they know we need him?'"
Elena Duncan's mother, 48-year-old Lashelle Duncan, said the shooters "aren't scared of police" because they know small penalties and short sentences accompany most gun crimes.
“If laws aren’t enforced, what’s there to be scared of? They’re like kids. If a mom’s not going to discipline her kid, how’s that kid going to be scared into listening to his mom and dad? It’s just the same thing: You get away with what they’ll allow you to get away with.”