Deadly Force

This is a report I filed for K-2 examining the training for Oregon State Police troopers when it comes to deadly force, and the criteria they use for deciding when to use it. It followed a man’s 2006 attack on an officer with a knife in La Pine that resulted in the man’s death at the hands of Deschutes County law enforcement. It was also shortly after traffic stop turned shoot-out in Albany between a trooper and a driver he’d pulled over.

It came to mind as I covered the Aaron Campbell shooting settlement, and his family’s cry for change with how police are trained.

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Nick Teixeira Wants Out of the State Hospital

The man who, as a teenager, shot Clackamas County sergeant Damon Coates is requesting to be moved from the Oregon State Hospital to a residental treatment facility. In a hearing he requested before the Psychiatric Review Board, the burden of proof is on Nick Teixeira, who’s 24, to show such a transfer won’t pose a risk to the public.

Coates was severely and permanently disabled when Teixeira shot him in the face on January 9, 2003 while he was responding to a call from Teixeira’s parents expressing concern about their son’s behavior. Teixeira was 15.

Two psychiatrists for the state hospital are testifying on behalf of Teixeira, supporting this “next step” in his treatment plan. They say he is not exhibiting signs of mental illness, hasn’t taken prescription medication since 2007 and doesn’t need to. One even said Teixeira’s in “remission” from mental illness.

In the hearing room are the wife and daughter of Damon Coates. Tammy Coates tells me her husband isn’t doing well, that a half-hour long seizure six months ago put in him in the hospital and set back the progress he’s made in speaking and writing.

Sitting directly behind Tammy Coates is Teixeira’s mother, Dawn Gentry. She’s been a staunch advocate of her son, relaying to me the permission he was given to leave the hospital and give a speech at Portland State University as part of his growth and maturation.

Teixeira’s therapist, Dr. Carlene Shultz, cross-examined by the Department of Justice prosecutor Thomas Castle:

Castle: “Has Mr. Teixera told you why he shot Damon Coates in the face?

Shultz: “Perhaps, no.”

Castle: “Do you think that’s important?”

Shultz: Long pause. “He has told me…he has talked about his mental state at the time.”

Castle: “…do you think that’s important?”

Shultz: “Yes. I’m not sure how to answer that.”

Victim statements are allowed in a hearing like this. The first came from Tammy Coates, who looked directly at Teixeira as she said: (paraphrased)

“I still forgive what you did. We don’t live with some horrible hatred or bitterness toward you. It’s been much more difficult since May …Damon hasn’t been able to speak or walk at all. His level of care is now 10 times what it was. Regarding the 20 year sentence, if you didn’t deserve it, they shouldn’t have given it to you. It’s not going to be easy for you…I know it’s going to be difficult for you for years to come. Just to hear you’re able to share your story…is encouraging. Obviously it looks good…in the back of my mind, I wonder if you’re doing it for that reason…but I would never judge your heart on that. You can’t undo that day…as much I’m sure you wish…(not as much as Damon) for that day to be undone.”

Jerry Coates, Damon Coates father told the board:

“You know it’s good that he’s doing good and making progress but in a controlled environment and under supervision, you don’t have to be very smart to know that if you do or say all the right things…you can get out sooner…or get different treatment. Somewhere along the line here we need to discuss justice. Damon was deliberately shot in the face…with every intention of killing him. Somewhere in all of this, there’s supposed to be some justice. My son is as good as dead and our lives are ruined.”

The board deliberated for 15 minutes then announced their approval for Nick Teixeira to receive an evaluation on whether he can go to a secure residential treatment facility in Pendleton.

His attorney promptly congratulated him. The psychiatrists/therapists who testified on his behalf gave each other thumbs up signs.

And Damon Coates’ father asked me outside, “Where is the justice here? They should see my son laying there. I don’t get it.”