The last time Nick Teixeira saw Damon Coates, he shot Coates in the face. When they met on Wednesday, Teixeira handed Coates a religious medallion and asked for forgiveness.
It was a rare, if not unprecedented, moment that followed a hearing at the Oregon State Hospital, where Teixeira has lived since 2005. The shooting left Coates, a highly popular and respected Clackamas County sheriff’s sergeant, partially paralyzed.
Coates, his wife Tammy and their three adult children, asked to meet with Teixeira after a state Psychiatric Security Review Board hearing to determine whether Teixeira could transfer to a secure but less restrictive mental health facility in Pendleton. In 2003, Teixeira was sentenced to 20 years under the jurisdiction of the board.
During the private meeting, which lasted around 20 minutes, Teixeira told his victim there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about it, Tammy Coates said.
Teixeira, now 25, “teared up and cried and shook (Damon’s) hand,” said Tammy Coates. He gave Damon Coates a small religious token imprinted with the words, “Don’t be afraid. I’m with you always.”
Teixeira was 15 when he shot Coates during a psychotic episode. Teixeira’s parents, alarmed by his behavior, which was partly fueled by meth, had called 911, and Coates was one of several deputies who responded.
Coates, about to pat down Teixeira, asked him if he had any weapons. Teixeira said no, then pulled out a stolen .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and shot Coates. Another deputy then shot Teixeira.
The tragedy devastated the deeply religious Coates family.
“I was harboring a lot of hate. I didn’t have any forgiveness in me,” said son Jesse Coates.
That changed Wednesday as the family hugged Teixeira, embracing him as a lost soul deserving of compassion.
“We’re all scarred in different ways,” Jesse Coates said.
Such face-to-face encounters are rare, said Teixeira’s attorney Harris Matarazzo, a 25-year veteran of such hearings. “If this isn’t the first, there haven’t been more than two or three.”
Teixeira is impulsive and immature, but he is rational, clear-headed and shows no signs of delusions, a state hospital psychiatrist and psychologists told the state Psychiatric Security Review Board, which approved the transfer to Pendleton. The board rejected the move in 2010.
Dr. Sara Walker, a state psychiatrist, said Teixeira is “polite, cooperative, his thought process is clear and rational” and has not taken psychiatric drugs since 2007. He has gone on supervised group outings and had unsupervised off-campus visits with his grandparents.
“That’s a good as we expect people to get in this facility,” Walker said.