Accounts from friends and social media profiles belonging to a victim in last weekend’s shooting in Dayton, OH, whose name was previously reported as Megan Betts, indicate that Betts was a transgender man who went by Jordan Cofer and used he/him pronouns.
According to media reports, Cofer, 22, was the sibling of shooting suspect Connor Betts, and was the first victim in the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon district that left nine dead and 27 wounded. It appears that Cofer was out as a trans man to only a handful of people, and there is no indication at this time that his gender identity was a motivating factor in his death.
A close friend of Cofer’s—who wished to remain anonymous—confirmed the authenticity of several social media accounts to Splinter, saying that he was trans and preferred being called Jordan.
“Jordan was my closest friend,” said the friend over Twitter direct message. “He identified with he/him pronouns to people he trusted and knew would support him. Jordan was probably one of the sweetest people you would ever meet, a true saint, but he was also very scared constantly. He tried to give the best to everyone.”
A Twitter account associated with Cofer appears to show him tweeting at his brother just hours before the shooting.
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Stories like Cofer’s, featuring a young trans person who was a victim of a devastating and high-profile crime but who appears to have only shared his trans status with a small circle of people, are delicate. People can debate about whether the fact of his gender identity is newsworthy. What is clear, though, is that his friends are free to remember him as they knew him.
The trans community also has a right to account for its dead. There’s been no indication thus far that Cofer’s murder was a transphobic hate crime, but it serves as an important reminder that trans people are more than the transphobia society visits upon them. Everyone who spoke with Splinter for this story felt it was important for his true identity to be accurately reported in the press, without sensationalistic or political sentiments.
“Jordan told me in the past that he was not out to his family, but that could have changed in the past month as we barely spoke of the topic recently,” the close friend, who said Cofer never told his brother about his trans status, told Splinter. “I do not believe that his gender identity had played a part in his death because of the fact that he wasn’t out to many people.”
A Tumblr account that appears to have belonged to Cofer listed him as an “ace poly trans boy with a loving heart and way too much work to do.” The friend confirmed the account belonged to Cofer, saying they met on the platform.
An Instagram account for Cofer features a profile photo of Natewantstobattle, one of his favorite YouTubers. According to the friend, Cofer was deeply involved in the fandoms of several well known YouTubers, including JackSepticEye, who is featured in Cofer’s Tumblr profile picture.
Bellbrook Police Chief Doug Doherty released a statement to the media on Monday evening on behalf of the Betts family that made reference to their grieving the loss of their daughter. Attempts to contact the family through the Bellbrook police, which is currently handling media requests, were not returned before publication. The Dayton Police Department said it was not aware of Cofer’s gender identity.
Cofer’s former employer, the Smokejumper Visitors Center in Missoula, MT, did not respond to requests for comment. A source at the LGBT center at Wright State University, where Cofer was a rising senior, was unfamiliar with him.
A spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality released the following statement about Cofer and his gender identity: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Jordan as well as eight others in this tragic and violent act. Mass gun violence is an epidemic in this country and deserving of swift and immediate action by lawmakers at all levels of government. We join the nation in mourning for every community impacted by gun violence.”
Another friend, Daniel, who requested a pseudonym out of privacy concerns, attended middle and high school with Cofer in their hometown of Bellbrook. Daniel is trans himself and remembers Cofer as queer but still in the closet.
“There’s a weird culture in the town and everyone knows everyone,” Daniel told Splinter. “Coming out in Bellbrook meant that you were probably one of less than maybe five that were openly out in Bellbrook, and that’s being generous… That was the thing, if you were out, you were usually getting a lot of flak from students and nearly no protection from teachers. It’s a very common small town queer experience and I think a lot of people want to forget that as much as they can.”
Bellbrook High School is small. According to Daniel, there were fewer than 1,000 students at the school when he and Cofer attended, and his graduating class only had 199 students. Rumors about students’ sexual orientations or gender identities would often swirl at the school. “People would talk about it, it’s a very small school. Image was very prominent,” he said.
Daniel said he was fairly close with Cofer after moving to Bellbrook in middle school before drifting apart as the two continued on into high school. “He was probably one of the first few people who really tried to make friends with me,” he said, indicating that he remembers referring to Cofer with his family’s last name, Betts. “It was very endearing but Betts [also] had a lot of intensity in him. He had these wooden clogs that were an inch or two thick and he would step on the toes of people trying to be friends.”
He said that neither he nor Cofer were out at all in high school, though the LGBTQ kids at the school tended to gravitate toward each other organically. “It seems like a stereotype, but a lot of queer people flocked to the art room, a lot of queer people flocked to theater or were in band, but there were a lot of queer people who didn’t and I think they felt pretty isolated,” said Daniel.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Cofer played the trumpet in the band in high school, which Daniel also confirmed.
Over the weekend, Candice Keller, an Ohio Republican official, pinned the blame for the rising number of mass shootings in the country on “the breakdown of the family,” listing the existence of transgender people at the top of the list.
The potential for the politicization of Cofer’s trans status is high in this case, though it should be reiterated that there simply is no current available evidence to suggest that Cofer’s killer, his own brother, even knew of his gender identity, much less whether it was a motivating factor in the shooting.
Cofer’s close friend said she hopes that people will remember him for how he lived his life. “I am devastated, but I’m not letting that hold me back from having him be seen as him,” she said. “I will remember him as probably one of the biggest, best parts of my life. All of my best experiences involved him.”
Correction, 3:47 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with the correct name of one of the YouTube accounts Cofer followed. It is JackSkepticEye, not JackEyeSkeptic. (5:05 pm. ET: Actually, it’s JackSepticEye. We regret the mistake.)