Drug suspect shot himself, police say

Drug suspect shot himself, police say, Oregonian May 16 2008

A 43-year-old man fatally shot himself in the head Thursday after Portland police and federal agents raided his house and fired at least one shot as they tried to arrest him on federal drug charges, police said.

Derek J. Coady was pronounced dead in the back garage of his Southeast Holgate Boulevard home, one of more than a dozen locations searched as part of a major methamphetamine drug ring case.

It was the second Portland officer-involved shooting within 32 hours, draining police resources and causing the bureau to send in fraud, robbery and sex assault detectives to help with interviews and handle crime scene evidence.

Many of the bureau’s homicide detectives have been operating on little sleep after investigating three killings and now two officer-involved shootings within one week.

“This spike of activity is highly unusual,” said Acting Police Chief Lynnae Berg, filling in for Chief Rosie Sizer who left Thursday on a 10-day trip to Turkey. “It just seems like a confluence of unfortunate circumstances.”

The early morning raid and shooting drew swarms of federal agents and local police –a startling sight to elementary and high school students heading to class nearby. About six blocks of the boulevard, from 122nd to 128th avenues, were closed to traffic most of the day.

Members of Portland’s Gang Enforcement Team serving the federal warrant burst into Coady’s home at 12612 S.E. Holgate Blvd. shortly before 6 a.m. They found his wife inside, but Coady was in a detached garage behind his home.

“When they opened the door to clear the building, they see him inside, armed with a handgun,” said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, police spokesman.

Officers ordered Coady to put down his gun. Police said Coady instead dived behind the front of a parked sports utility vehicle, in the back of the garage. Schmautz said Coady’s position “would have provided him with a vantage point to possibly shoot at officers,” and one of the gang team’s officers fired at Coady.

Police did not identify the officer or say where he was standing when he fired his gun. A short time later, police heard a gunshot coming from where Coady was hiding, and they retreated from the garage, Schmautz said.

Members of the Portland police Special Emergency Reaction Team, armed with shields, approached Coady. They found his body and a handgun nearby.

By late Thursday, police said they were still unsure whether a bullet fragment from the officer’s gun struck Coady. But the medical examiner’s office determined Coady died from a close-range shot to the head.

During the raid, two neighbors were evacuated to the nearby Golden Acres Retirement Center that houses many chronic mentally ill residents. Center staff member Sandy Pidwell said she first noticed police or FBI agents staging in their parking lot.

“Then we heard the gunshot,” Pidwell said. “I moved our residents away from our front windows to bedrooms on the side of our building.”

School administrators at Gilbert Heights Elementary School, about two blocks from the shooting scene, met parents as they dropped off their children. Principal Kevin Fordney decided to hold classes as usual, but not allow students on the front playground during recess.

“There’s been a crime committed and police are taking care of it,” Fordney told parents.

Coady had no criminal record in Oregon, other than driving-related offenses. He worked as an auto detailer and had built the garage, shaped like a miniature blimp hangar, behind his home to do his work, said Bill Monroe Jr., who knew Coady.

“He had really high-end clients. He did Blazer vehicles. If you were one of his closer friends, he never wanted to charge you for the work that he did. He just wanted to help you out,” Monroe said.

Monroe had been in Coady’s home in the past and never witnessed any drug activity, he said.

Coady faced a federal drug indictment, police said, but would release no other details.

“It’s very, very difficult for me to comprehend that,” Monroe said.