Ramming of cop car leads Grand Forks man to charges — (In Forum)

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In Forum

Amanda Ricker and Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications Co.

Published Saturday, December 02, 2006

LARIMORE, ND – A Grand Forks man faces attempted murder charges after repeatedly ramming the Larimore Police Chief’s patrol car Friday with the SUV he was driving and fighting efforts of several law enforcement officers to arrest him.

Witnesses to the bizarre incident said it appeared Kevin Cooper came to town trying to provoke a confrontation with police, perhaps to force what often is called “suicide by cop.”

Chief Steven Jones said he had no idea why Cooper targeted him.

Cooper, 56, who appeared to be under the influence of prescription medications found with him, was taken by ambulance to Altru Hospital for evaluation, where he remained late Friday, according to Maj. Mike Fonder of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Dept. “We’re still investigating what he was doing,” Fonder said.

Jones said it all started with what he thought was simply an accident caused by icy streets.

He was sitting in his patrol car outside the post office on Front Street at about 11:30 a.m. when Cooper’s vehicle sideswiped him. Jones got out of his car to talk to Cooper, but Cooper drove away in his maroon Blazer east, toward the edge of town. Jones pursued, but Cooper spun within a block or two and headed back toward Jones, hitting his vehicle again. Jones pulled over again near the post office and Cooper came back and hit him yet again.

“He came at me full-bore and struck me,” Jones said. “He pushed me 15 feet.”

Jones called for help.

Officers from the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Northwood (N.D.) Police Department and UND police arrived. Jones and the other officers drew their weapons and approached Cooper’s vehicle, ordering him to get out.

A witness at the scene said Cooper repeatedly yelled at the police officers to shoot him, swore at them and disregarded their orders. Instead of exiting the vehicle, Cooper reached into the back seat, then crawled into the back seat.

A passerby helped the officers by blocking traffic and then handed Jones a hammer to break the window on Cooper’s vehicle.

Cooper continued to resist and it took several officers to take him down and get handcuffs on him, witnesses said.

According to witnesses, Cooper’s actions appeared aimed at provoking a confrontation with police. It appears, in fact, he came hunting for Jones.

Cooper’s mission in Larimore began before he hit Jones. He stopped at about 11 a.m. at the the EZ Stop Convenience Store on the north side of town. He bought Fig Newtons and a bottle of water, owner Rita Hunt said.

“When he put his cookies down, his hand was real shaky,” said Hunt. “He said he wanted to talk to the cop.”

Hunt said she didn’t know Cooper, but that he looked familiar and seemed under a lot of stress. She asked if she could help. He said he just needed to talk to the cop. Hunt pointed him toward downtown where she had passed Jones on her way into work and watched him drive away in the Blazer.

“He was definitely on a mission,” Hunt said.

There was no apparent connection between Cooper and Jones or the city of Larimore. Jones, who has been under fire and is on probation after complaints by people who said he was too strict enforcing various laws, said he’s never seen Cooper before. No one could be found in Larimore who knew of Cooper.

According to neighbors, Cooper lives in a townhouse in southwest Grand Forks with his mother. Cooper has two prior convictions, according to the Grand Forks County Corrections Center, one in 2003 for drunk driving and another two months later for failing to appear in court.

Police expect Cooper to face an attempted murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Cooper was on “a lot of meds,” Fonder said. A witness said the man had many antidepressants in his car and seemed to be very disturbed.