On Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts met with retired CCSO Sgt. Damon Coates and officially re-dedicated the CCSO Marine Unit Boathouse as the "Sergeant Damon Coates Boathouse."
This was a small ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions. The new boathouse name recognizes Sgt. Coates and his years of service in public safety.
The Sheriff's Office would like to thank Architectural Metalcrafters Inc. for creating the new plaque affixed to the boathouse.
Sgt. Damon Coates' incredible story is one of struggle and survival.
As a Clackamas County Sheriff's Office deputy, Coates worked in patrol, training, and our narcotics unit. He was a well-liked public information officer, representing our agency in the news. He also knew — and knows — how to have fun, indulging a love for the outdoors, fishing and classic cars.
On Jan. 9, 2003, he was responding to a call with other deputies in the Milwaukie area. Parents were reporting erratic behavior by their son, 15-year-old Nicholas Teixeira.
Sgt. Coates, then 32, was about to search Teixeira when Teixeira produced a stolen gun hidden in a sofa. He shot Damon in the face before being shot by another deputy, Mark Fresh.
The shooting permanently disabled Damon. He retired to devote his life to rehabilitation from a debilitating brain injury. His family has supported him throughout this journey to reclaim as much independence as possible. His West Linn home was remodeled to accommodate his new reality.
Over the years, Damon has made astonishing progress. He has suffered setbacks including pneumonia, seizures, and bacterial meningitis. But he refuses to give up, and he remains an inspiration to all of us.
Damon's wife Tammy has said that faith gave her and Damon the strength to continue. "You have to hang on and have to hang on with your relationship with the Lord," she told a KGW reporter in 2013. "You can't make it really, without it."
There have been moments of joy amidst the struggle. In August 2009, the Queen Charlotte Lodge deep-sea fishing resort hosted Damon, Tammy and son Jered as they landed Coho and Chinook off the coast of British Columbia. Coates also enjoyed exhibiting his 1972 Chevy Rally Nova at car shows; he'd been restoring it when he was shot, and deputies, family and friends helped finish the restoration after the shooting, adding a hand-painted badge and custom plates reading "KODE 4." The Nova was christened "The Purple Heart," and became a fixture at the World of Speed automotive museum in Wilsonville. In August 2018 Damon sat in the Nova's passenger seat with his son Jesse at the wheel and Tammy in the back seat doing burnouts at the Woodburn Dragstrip. Coates did months of specialized therapy to allow him to get in and out of the car.
In a remarkable gesture, in 2013 Damon and Tammy met face-to-face with Nick Teixeira following a state Psychiatric Security Review Board hearing, 10 years after the shooting.
Damon continues to stay in touch with the Sheriff's Office, making appearances at Sheriff's Office events, including swearing-in ceremonies and his colleagues' retirement parties. In January 2015, he and Tammy joined me and other members of our law-enforcement family at a meeting of the County Commissioners, where they recognized his sacrifice as part of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. World of Speed hosted a special get-together with Damon late last year.
In July 2019, CCSO personnel joined Damon Coates at the Oregon State Police Badge Ceremony, where Damon's son Jered received his OSP badge before heading off to the police academy to carry on his father's legacy of service. "I'm going to try and impact the community as much as he did," Jered told KPTV last year. "Huge shoes to fill, but if I can do half of what he did, then that's great."
"Knowing that we haven't forgotten Damon's service and his sacrifice means a lot to him and his family," said Sheriff Roberts, "and I think it's important for us as an organization to never forget that sacrifice."
In 2008, five years after the shooting, Damon spoke to reporters at the dedication of a "memorial bench" in his honor at the Sheriff's Office North Station. (A Marine Unit boat [photo attached] is also named in Coates' honor.)
"It's a dangerous job, but at the same time, there's a lot of honor," he told Fox12. And in a lengthy interview with KGW, he talked about his new life. At the time he was working out in near-daily therapy sessions — with the goal of walking again — and he and his wife Tammy Coates had recently purchased an RV and were preparing for one son's wedding. (He would later walk down the aisle at each of his sons' weddings.)
"I've met some pretty incredible goals thus far," he told Dooris. "It's a miracle I'm even here today, just sitting in the sunshine. I can still look back and see myself sitting in a hospital bed and thinking, 'Boy, will I ever get out of this place? Will I even live?'… I have enough faith in God that I know he's carried me this far for a reason. He's going to carry me further."
Source: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office