Boathouse Named in Honor of Deputy Disabled in Line of Duty

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office this week memorialized the service of former deputy Damon Coates — who was permanently disabled in the line of duty — by renaming and rededicating its marine unit in his honor.

The ceremony, which was small because of Covid-19 restrictions, was held at the newly rechristened “Sergeant Damon Coates Boathouse” on Thursday, with Sgt. Coates and his wife, Tammy, in attendance. A plaque fashioned by Architectural Metalcrafters Inc. was affixed to the boathouse.

Sgt. Coates’ incredible story is one of struggle and survival.

As a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Coates worked in patrol, training and narcotics. He was a well-liked public information officer, frequently representing the agency in the news.

He was also known among his colleagues for his congenial and fun-loving nature, with a love for the outdoors, fishing and classic cars.

On Jan. 9, 2003, he responded to a call with other deputies in the Milwaukie area, where the parents of 15-year-old Nicholas Teixeira were reporting erratic behavior.

Sgt. Coates, then 32, was about to search Teixeira when the teen produced a stolen gun hidden in a sofa. He shot the sergeant 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 his former colleagues at the sheriff’s office — and many others.

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, Damon and Tammy met face-to-face with Nick Teixeira in 2013, 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 other law enforcement members 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,” Sheriff Roberts said, “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.

“It’s a dangerous job, but at the same time, there’s a lot of honor,” he told Fox 12.

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 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 KGW‘s Pat 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.”

Photos courtesy the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

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