Tampa businesswoman confronts teen attacker

You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone with a bigger passion for life than Heidi Damon. She is simply put, full of happiness and a zest for living.

Some would wonder how she does it after what she’s going through in the last two years.

“I love my life,” Heidi says.  “I have the best life.”

Heidi Damon believes in the power of positive thinking.  She says it saved her life. The Tampa businesswoman and community activist survived a chilling attack in an Ybor City parking garage.

Heidi nearly died that day, after a teenager snuck up on her, wrapped his arm around her neck and choked her until she passed out.

“Oh my God,” she thought.  “This person wants to kill me.  [His arm] was so tight.” She added, “All I remember is my arm going up.  I said, ‘Please don’t hurt me.'”

Heidi woke up a short time later face down in the front seat of her Passat. She was naked from the waist down.  She was suffering from a seizure, hemorrhaging from her nose and biting down on her tongue. Her eyes were filled with blood.

She was left for dead, but she lived.  And, more than that, she’s showing her face and telling her story.

“Why hide behind a curtain anymore? I’m proud of the fact that I survived. I’m proud of the fact that I lived,” said Heidi.

She says this happened to her because, in her words, “I could handle it. I’m strong.” But she’s quick to add, “I always said, ‘I’m the last person that would ever happen to,’ but I was on my phone, talking on it, which was a distraction.”

It was a distraction that then-16-year-old Javon Cooper took advantage of that day. Heidi says she saw him leaving the garage when she woke up in her car. The teenager was just released from jail that very morning.

She just knew it was him.  He never even turned around. Heidi’s attorney told her that the teen’s phone had other pictures of women face down.

Heidi’s attitude is remarkable, and her spirit is palpable.

This woman, who also happens to be the vice president of Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, is ready to live and be happy.

“I can’t focus on the negative, I just can’t. I have to focus on forward, just like a horse in a race. If they didn’t put the blinders on a horse, they’d get distracted. But if they look forward, they’re probably gonna win,” she said with a smile.

Heidi wants other to women to take note and learn.  She encourages all women and even men to get a headset so, “your hands can be free and you can fight back.  Mine weren’t.  But, I have a headset now!”

It turns out, Heidi’s seizure most likely saved her life.  She was convulsing and her attacker ran off, leaving her naked without pants or underwear. But he didn’t rape her.

Javon Coooper will now spend 15 years in prison for attempted sexual assault and attempted murder. The teen wouldn’t even look at Heidi during his sentencing.

“My life will go on, yours is over,” Heidi told the teenager in court.

And, she means it.

10 News