News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Woman recounts harrowing ordeal

In a split second on August 5, Dawn Cooper found herself in the path of a drunk driver who had fled from police miles down Highway 20 and into Sisters.

According to an Oregon State Police report, at about 3:40 p.m., on that summer day, an OSP trooper reported a reckless driver on the east side of the Santiam Pass on Highway 20 traveling eastbound. He was unable to catch up to and stop the reckless vehicle, which was picked up a short time later by another OSP officer as it was approaching Sisters.

There was a short pursuit, which the OSP trooper terminated.

It turned out that the driver, Troy Brandon Harris, 31, of Eugene, had turned onto West McKinney Butte Road. He was traveling at about 55 miles per hour when he collided with Dawn Cooper, who was making a turn into the shopping plaza to go to the bank. There was a rending crash; the vehicles spun. Harris’s vehicle plowed through a fence at The Pines, and he jumped out and fled on foot, to be apprehended later without incident. He was jailed to face charges of assault; DUII; reckless driving; unlawful possession of a firearm; and attempting to elude an


“As I started into my turn, that’s the last thing I remember,” Cooper told The Nugget last week.

Police swarmed the area, and paramedics went to help Cooper.

“I couldn’t see clearly or hear very well for a while,” she recalled. “I didn’t know I’d been hit; I didn’t know what was going on.”

It turned out that Cooper had suffered a concussion from her head striking her side window, and she was in significant pain from a severely broken and dislocated collarbone. It took first responders a half hour to get her out of her car.

She called her husband, Chuck, from the ambulance, and he came to a scene strewn with wreckage and swarming with law enforcement and emergency personnel.

“It was an awful scene for him to come upon, and there was no way to prepare him for that,” Dawn recalled.

Cooper was in the wrong place at the wrong time — but she also recognizes that, in a sense, she was lucky, something a state trooper pointed out in stark


“If I’d been about two seconds more into my turn, he’d have T-boned me and I would not have walked away from the accident,” she said.

Cooper’s recovery wasn’t easy. She suffered from symptoms of her concussion for a while, and her first-ever surgery was extensive. She has a six-inch steel plate and seven screws holding her collarbone in place. It took the rest of the summer to


“I was very dependent and vulnerable, and those are things I don’t do very well,” said Cooper, whose life is oriented around helping others as a Family Access Network Advocate and school district student information coordinator.

She expressed her deep appreciation for her husband and all the community members and friends that supported her.

Cooper says she is not angry at Harris.

“I’m not angry because at the end of the day, it’s a wasted emotion as far as I’m concerned, and it isn’t going to help my healing,” she said.

That does not, however, mean that she wasn’t determined to see Harris held accountable. The District Attorney’s Office consulted with her in pursuing an appropriate sentence.

“I was able to make a victim’s impact statement while I was there (in court) and I asked the judge to make it directly to him,” she said.

On October 9, Harris was sentenced to 60 months prison in the Oregon Department of Corrections. He will get credit for time served, and will be eligible to earn good-time and any programs that the DOC deems he’s eligible for. Harris will be required to undertake 36 months of post-prison supervision; his license will be suspended for five years after his release, and he is to have no contact with Cooper. The firearm that was in the car when he crashed was forfeited.

Cooper’s hope is that Harris will take advantage of the programs available to him in prison and that when he gets out he will lead a better life and not hurt anyone else.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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