Readers may have seen Dakota Tallman, 28, in downtown Shelbyville, either walking down the road, sitting in the laundromat or living under the bridge over Clear Creek.

Dakota, known as Koda, struggled with addiction for many years, and died of an overdose in Louisville April 12 under a bridge. According to his best friend, Holley Theiler. “He leaves behind a beautiful little boy, a mother, father, brother and a city full of friends.”


A memorial was held under the bridge Sunday April 23 to honor Dakota’s life. “Loved ones came together and released paper lanterns & balloons to show respect to Koda,” Holley said. “He deserves a bit of recognition for his life.”

Shelbyville Police knew Koda, and according to Holley, helped him from time to time. During the memorial, cruisers stopped on the bridge and turned on blue lights to honor his memory, she said.


Born in 1995, “Koda battled his demons for several years,” Holley said. “He even tried rehab five times. “It’s unfortunate that it never worked out. The drugs took his life and shattered the hearts of the ones he has left behind. That being said, he was the happiest person and so amazing”

Holley wants folks to know how horrible addiction is and how it can take a toll on people and their loved ones.

“Addiction is a horrible, evil thing and the community needs to know that it is definitely a real issue. Regardless how it starts, it turns into a spiral of darkness very quickly,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to get out of. Addicts have family & people who love them, just like everyone else. They’re human too.”

Walking around

City residents might have noticed Koda walking downtown streets twirling a stick, Holley said, and dancing to music. “He always had a smile on his face, no matter the circumstances. He spent a lot of time on the walking trail and was often hanging around the laundromat intown.”

He whittled walking sticks, liked to listen to music, enjoyed outdoors and spend time with friends.

Living rough

Koda moved to Shelbyville from South Carolina, where he lived eight years ago. The past four years, he set up living quarters under the bridge between McDonald’s and Paradise Liquors, but not always. “Even in the dead of winter, Koda made it livable. He wouldn’t complain either. He was always in good spirits,” his friend said.

Gentle spirit

Holley called her friend kind and genuine. “He always helped people if he could. His energy was always so strong and radiant. Everyone who knew Koda loved him dearly. His entire aura was unique and pure. He loved his life even when he had nothing but the clothes on his back to call his. He brightened everyone’s life & if you were having a bad day, Koda would make you laugh. He was a beautiful person, inside and out.”

Holley met Koda through a friend eight years ago. They dated for two years. “He started to fall into addiction,” she said, and stayed extremely close.

Community help

Holley hopes the community will reach out to folks struggling with substance issues. “You might be their saving grace, and if not, at least you can say you tried. What’s it going to hurt? We can only hope that the drug problem in this world will be under control one day. Too many beautiful souls are consumed by a substance. Reach out to them, buy them a meal if you can’t do anything else. Just do something.”

Left too soon

Koda only lived in this world a short time and his passing affected many, Holley said. “He will be missed every single day. Shelbyville will never be the same for many people.