published Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Officers honored for actions at shooting

On his computer screen Fort Oglethorpe police Officer Mitchell Moore has a frightening scene — a frozen frame of the a man just as he’s about to shoot the officer.

He knows some might not understand his choice to upload the picture from his Taser’s camera to such an unavoidable location, but that’s OK. It’s there for him not anyone else.

“I don’t ever want that to not be fresh in my mind,” Officer Moore said.

In police work it’s easy for someone to get complacent, he said, and his recent experience will remind him and others of the dangers in the job.

Monday night the Fort Oglethorpe City Council honored Officer Moore and Walker County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Miller for their response in a shooting June 24 with plaques commemorating their safety service.

That June morning began as thousands of mornings that both Deputy Miller and Officer Moore had worked, serving warrants, responding to calls.

Veteran policemen, Officer Moore had worked in law enforcement over two decades, seven with Fort Oglethorpe. and Deputy Miller has worn a badge for 13 years.

But the day wouldn’t end the way either of them had ever experienced.

When Deputy Miller pulled over John Curtis Coates in the parking lot of a Battlefield Parkway Chick-fil-A to serve a warrant for aggravated stalking, harassing telephone calls and violating a temporary protective order on the man told the officers he wasn’t going to jail.

That’s when the deputy called for backup.

Officer Moore responded.

Mr. Coates resisted. As he and Deputy Miller struggled with the man, Officer Moore trained his Taser on the suspect.

Cars were lined up at the nearby McDonald’s and Chik-fil-A. Deputy Miller remembers thinking about those people waiting for their breakfast, people this man might harm.

Officer Moore said when Mr. Coates aimed the handgun he’d pulled from the glove box of his vehicle at the officers and fired the entire episode passed in seconds.

One of Mr. Coates’ bullets struck Officer Miller in the back, but his body armor deflected it, causing only a minor injury. Deputy Miller then fired and hit Mr. Coates, who was taken to Hutcheson Medical Center and pronounced dead.

The men knew each other in passing before June 24, but Officer Moore credits the deputy for his reaction.

“He saved my life, he’s my hero,” Officer Moore said.

Deputy Miller just shrugged at the comment.

Both said the event reminds them of the daily dangers of the job, but didn’t dissuade them from work. Deputy Miller was back to work in a week, Officer Miller in about four days.

During the meeting former police officer and now City Councilman Johnny Smith said he’d been in three shootings in 30 years of police work. Pointing to his stomach he recounted a wound that took part of his intestine and a kidney. But he said he wouldn’t change anything.

“It’s not fun, it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s about service, thank you guys.”

“I just thank God that you all are still here,” he said.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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