Jamie Capoot stood in a crowd of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., Sunday night. They all lit a candle for the 163 police officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S. in 2011.
Capoot was there to honor one officer specifically — her father Jim.
“He was my coach and my mentor,” said Comet guard Jamie Capoot, 21, the second of Jim, and wife Jennifer’s, three daughters.
The Vallejo High School girl’s basketball coach and a 19-year veteran police officer in the same city, Jim Capoot, 45, was killed Nov. 17 chasing a bank robbery suspect.
Jamie Capoot learned of his shooting during a Contra Costa College women’s basketball practice that abruptly ended that afternoon.
Capoot’s father began coaching her when she was 10 years old. Now, more than a decade later, she is set to accomplish a goal her dad had in mind the last 11 years — transferring to Sonoma State in the fall on a full basketball scholarship.
“He’s been the one to push me so hard, helping me overcome every obstacle thrown in my way,” Capoot said. “Nothing is going to stop me from playing basketball.”
Capoot’s 2011-12 season was unlike any other in the history of the Comet women’s basketball team; it almost never happened.
With five players on the squad at the beginning of the season, Capoot and Shay Mendes, the only two sophomores, met with coach Paul DeBolt and decided they wanted to finish their second year of eligibility at CCC. So they went ahead and played without a single substitute on the bench.
The Comets lost both games at their first tournament at Mission College in Santa Clara Nov. 11 and 12.
Jim Capoot was at the first of the two games, a 65-61 loss to Porterville College, sitting at the top of the bleachers as he did for most of Jamie’s games, placed strategically where everyone could hear him yelling at the players, coaches and referees — just like a coach.
He never wanted to miss one of his daughter’s games.
But an unexpected event that could have ended the Comets’ season a second time would arrive in less than a week.
It was a Thursday afternoon. The team was in practice running its “All-American” drill when DeBolt heard of Capoot’s shooting.
Current and former players at the daily practice were sprinting from baseline to baseline in the Gymnasium, which was dimly lit by the winter clouds obscuring the sun from the skylights above the court, when DeBolt made a call.
DeBolt, who does not carry his phone during practices, received a message to call his wife and he grabbed his phone from the office in the back of the Gym.
He had six missed calls. Two were from his wife and four were from Jennifer Capoot.
When DeBolt called his wife Joan, she only said, “Jim’s been shot. Call Jennifer.”
He immediately called Jim Capoot’s wife.
“Jim’s been shot,” Jennifer Capoot told DeBolt.
“Get Jamie to Vallejo Kaiser (hospital) right now.”
DeBolt ended the call and re-entered the Gym’s blue front doors and told Jamie Capoot to pack up her stuff because they had to go.
She asked her coach a direct and fearful question, “It’s my dad, isn’t it?”
Capoot said her father prepared her for such a tragedy “since Day One.”
Everyone on the team knew something terrible had happened without hearing a word of it.
The small team, which had grown to six, comprised of four freshman and two sophomores, could read the body language of their teammate and their coach. They all knew what Jim Capoot did for a living.
“I had an idea,” said Ally Roberts, Comet guard and goddaughter to Jim Capoot. “Jamie collapsed in my arms. She told me and I didn’t want to believe it. It didn’t seem real.”
For nearly two weeks, the team did not have a full team in practice and DeBolt canceled a scheduled appearance at a tournament in Los Angeles.
A day before the annual Comet Classic Women’s Basketball Tournament, police from up and down the state flocked to the Vallejo High School football field for Jim Capoot’s memorial.
The Comet squad and several alumni sat behind the Capoot family — Jennifer, Jamie and her sisters Jillian and Justine. Seated around them were Gov. Jerry Brown, the Vallejo High School basketball team and thousands of uniformed police officers.
Many of the same Vallejo Police Department officers came to San Pablo the next night for Jamie Capoot’s first game since her father’s death.
In front of a Gym full of supporters — Comet fans as well as the opposing team’s fans came together Dec. 1 to support Capoot, her family and her teammates — and Capoot scored 27 points against Los Medanos College. The next night she scored 30 against Mission College.
She led the team in scoring and earned all-tournament honors.
“It was totally different,” she said after losing to Mission, which eliminated the Comets from the tournament. “My dad was my biggest fan. For him not to be here is really tough.”
It put basketball and the season into a different perspective.
“(The games) didn’t mean as much to me,” said DeBolt, who knew Jim Capoot for 15 years after the two became neighbors in Vacaville. “I’ve been a pretty fierce, competitive coach through the years. I couldn’t muster it up. It wasn’t there.”
But the team kept playing in Capoot’s honor.
They wore shirts with symbols to honor Capoot. They shared slogans from his time as a Marine: “Semper fi,” “oorah” and “pain is temporary, pride is forever.” They proudly displayed his badge number, 497. And hanging on each side of the court were signs in his memory and an American flag above the same doors in the Gym that DeBolt walked through to deliver the sobering news in November.
For the next eight games, Jamie Capoot led her team and the state, averaging 25 points per game.
DeBolt expected her to eventually finish at least one game with 40 or 50 points.
“Nobody could stop her,” DeBolt said. “She was fearless.”
But on Jan. 11, another setback struck Capoot and the Comets.
With nine minutes left in the first half of the game at Napa Valley College, Capoot’s season ended with a broken left fibula.
It happened right in front of DeBolt, who said he heard a snap, saw her fall to the ground and knew immediately what happened.
“This is surreal. How could this happen?” he asked himself.
But as Capoot moved to the trainer’s table to lie down, the Comets finished the half. They came back out in the second half and beat the Storm 50-46. It was the Comets’ second win of the season and the first game of the season Capoot did not lead her team in points and rebounds.
“I felt helpless for them,” Capoot said. “(But) I knew they could do it. My dad was right there with them and with me.”
Roberts said she felt the same motivation during the game.
“I’m doing this for Jamie,” she told herself. “If we don’t win, it’s not worth it.”
The Comets only won one more game the rest of the season and finished 3-19 overall, 2-10 in the Bay Valley Conference.
But the impression left by the Capoots will be the legacy of 2011-12 for the Comets.
The season will be remembered for Jamie Capoot’s unwavering effort despite losing her father, first coach and best friend. It will be remembered for the team bonding to lift one another through what could have been an abandoned season. It will be remembered for Jim Capoot.
Jamie Capoot, graduate of Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, said she chose to transfer to Sonoma State in the North Bay Area, about an hour and a half from Vacaville, so she could remain close to her family and friends.
The criminal justice major said she probably will not become a cop, but will follow her father’s example.
The two blonds, Jim and Jamie, whose last name will always be mispronounced (the “t” is silent), will forever share a common bond on the hardwood and away from it.
“Yeah, I get it all the time. I love it,” Jamie Capoot said of comparisons to her father. “Me and my dad had a really strong bond. It’s the biggest compliment in the world.”