When former San Patricio County Sheriff’s Deputy Nathan Coates crashed into an 18-wheeler in April, his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit. He was fired, but his case hasn’t been prosecuted.
Now, he has a new job as a police officer for the City of Mathis. Documents and dash camera video obtained by KRIS 6 News paint a clearer picture of the day leading up to the crash, and how inaction by the Bee County Attorney’s Office allowed Coates to get a new job with a different department.
On April 21, Derrick Garcia was driving his 18-wheeler home from work on Highway 181 when he saw a vehicle out of the corner of his eye coming toward him from Baker Road.
“He was like that and just, there was no time for him to stop,” Garcia said. “He didn’t even stop – try to stop.”
A Texas Department of Transportation crash report shows the driver on Baker Road ran the stop sign and t-boned Garcia’s big rig.
“He threw me up on one side of the trailer,” Garcia recalls. “I brought it back and swerved back and forth.”
Garcia was able to call 911, then checked on the other driver.
“I know who he is,” Garcia said. “I walked up and I saw him. Like, out of all people, it had to be a cop.”
Nathan Coates, 52, an 18-year veteran of the San Patricio County Sheriff’s Office, was the driver, and he was badly injured. He was flown to Christus Spohn Hospital-Shoreline for treatment.
While at the hospital, officers obtained a subpoena to draw Coates’ blood, which showed a blood alcohol content of 0.14 – nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08. That blood test resulted in a warrant for Coates’ arrest. An investigation into the crash by the Texas Department of Public Safety revealed Coates was stopped at 2:10 p.m. the day of the crash by a Bee County Sheriff’s Deputy because Coates was swerving on the road.
In body camera video obtained by KRIS 6 news, Coates tells the Deputy he was tired from working overnight and was on the phone.
He also tells the Deputy three times that he works for the San Patricio County Sheriff’s Office.
The Bee County Deputy checks Coates’ license and insurance, then lets him leave without a citation.
Coates crashed into Garcia’s 18-wheeler at 4:42 p.m.
Coates refused to comment for this story when reached by phone. KRIS 6 News also called and emailed his attorney.
The San Patricio County Sheriff’s Office placed Coates on leave after the accident. He applied for reinstatement but was denied. Instead, he received a termination letter from San Patricio County Sheriff Oscar Rivera.
The letter lists Coates’ alleged violations, including the blood alcohol level, arrest warrant and failure to maintain insurance.
Coates then got a job as an officer with the Mathis Police Department.
Mathis Police Chief Marshall Roush told KRIS 6 News he was aware of the incident and that his department runs a full criminal history check. He says they also check to see if an officer was honorably discharged from their previous agency.
Rivera says Coates’ discharge was honorable because he was never convicted. But you can’t be convicted if you’re never prosecuted.
On July 1, even though Coates had turned himself in on a warrant for DWI, Bee County Attorney Michael Knight sent a letter saying he chose not to take action on the case. We asked Knight to explain his decision. In an email to KRIS 6 News, Knight said Coates’ case, “will receive action before the statute of limitations runs out in two years.”
Knight did not respond to follow-up questions about whether he intends to prosecute.
While Coates has a new job, Garcia and his family still wait for answers. When asked why they thought Coates wasn’t prosecuted, Garcia’s wife Kayla had a quick answer.
“Because he works for the sheriff’s department,” she said. “I think they wanted to sweep it under the rug.”