As a young newspaper ad salesman in Oklahoma City, Sandford “Sandy” Coats was moved by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to choose a career in public service. Today he’s the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, The Journal Record newspaper reported.
Coats, who was sworn in as the district’s top federal prosecutor on Dec. 30, was selling classified ads at the Oklahoma Gazette to earn money for college when Timothy McVeigh set off explosives that destroyed the federal building. The bombing killed 168 and at the time was the most lethal act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
“I was at my desk at the Gazette when the Murrah Building was bombed,” Coats told The Journal Record. “I’ll never forget any of that.”
He then went to work finishing his bachelor’s degree at Tulane University in New Orleans. Later, he earned a law degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where his father, Andy, has been dean since 1996. Andy Coats previously served as the mayor of Oklahoma City.
Sandy Coats became a commercial litigator after law school. But it wasn’t for him. He joined the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office in January 2004 under then-U.S. Attorney Robert McCampbell.
“They just kinda threw me in there,” he told the newspaper. “I got to try cases with Robert. We handled drug cases, gangs, organized crime and things like that. I got the experience I wanted.”
He quickly moved up the ranks in the office. Coats was the chief of the major crimes section and Project Safe Childhood coordinator before he succeeded Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney John Richter this month.
Coats told The Journal Record that his office will continue efforts to fight drug and gun crime while working to improve relations with the state’s American Indian tribes.
“We’re going to focus on making our state better,” the U.S. Attorney told the newspaper. “We’re going to focus on crimes against children. Our office has a great history of being a national leader in that area. We’ll continue to focus on that. We want to help.”