Originally created 09/25/00

Parents question son's death



A week after her son's death, Marilyn Cooper is haunted by the last conversation she had with him.

"He called and said the cops were there and he didn't know why and could I please come over and help him," Mrs. Cooper said.

"I didn't go."

Gary Lee Cooper, 47, was shot and killed at his residence a week ago Saturday by a Columbia County sheriff's deputy.

Deputies were escorting his girlfriend, Patricia Shannon, to pick up some of her belongings. She called police for an escort because she said Mr. Cooper had threatened her during an argument the Friday before. She said that he had warned her to leave and not return or he would "send her back in a box," police said.

The Cooper family says it doesn't know what really happened.

The events of that weekend have begun to sink in, and Mrs. Cooper and her husband, Cole Cooper, are questioning the way police handled the incident.

The Coopers said they believe their son had no idea why the police pulled up to his house that Saturday afternoon.

And they are convinced his death could have been avoided.

"I saw the police cars pull up, and I told my husband," Mrs. Cooper said. "I saw the deputies surround the house, and a few minutes later, we heard a gunshot."

They don't know what was said by their son or the deputies before the shooting, but the Coopers said few words were exchanged.

"It was over just like that. I think those deputies were two inexperienced rookies," Mr. Cooper said. "And they handled the situation poorly."

The investigation of the shooting is continuing, and it is not known when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation report will be released.

But from early accounts, the officers faced a potentially deadly situation when Mr. Cooper aimed a Ruger semiautomatic pistol at Deputy Robert Evans, who was at the Cooper Road home with Deputy Tim Powell.

According to the sheriff's report, when the deputies arrived, Mr. Cooper barricaded himself in his house.

When the deputies moved closer to the residence, Mr. Cooper ran out the back door and around to the front of the home and pointed the gun at the deputy.

He then ran back behind the home and fired toward Deputy Powell, who fell to the ground and fired back, hitting Mr. Cooper in the chest.

Deputy Powell is on administrative leave with pay.

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109.