James Quigley: The Hampton (Va) Police Division’s Killing of William A. Cooper

Submitted Monday, 27 June 2011 by Peninsula Libertarian Party chairman James Quigley:

I have expressed concerns before over the militarization of police forces throughout the United States, and mentioned that this was also a local problem with future consequences.

One of those bad potential consequences was sadly realized earlier this month. On Saturday morning, June 18th, the Hampton Police Department conducted a break-in, with body armor and guns drawn, of an elderly man’s home in order to deliver a warrant.

James Quigley

The warrant was issued so that the police could search his apartment for the selling of or the purchasing of prescription drugs through illegal means. We do not know what was going through William A. Cooper’s mind in these final moments, nor will we ever. Hampton police allege that the elderly man appeared with a gun and fired on police officers, who then returned fire and killed him. William A. Cooper was 69 years old.

Understandably, the Hampton police division issued a statement in regards to the unfortunate killing of a Hampton citizen:

On June 18, 2011 at 10:03 a.m., officers assigned to the Special Investigations Unit were executing a narcotics search warrant in the 100 block of Clifton Street. After making entry into the residence, the officers confronted the suspect who displayed a handgun and fired at the officers. The officers returned fire striking the suspect. The suspect, William A. Cooper, a 69-year-old Hampton man that resides in the 100 block of Clifton Street, was transported to Riverside Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 11:05 a.m.

During the investigation, it was discovered that a bullet struck a nearby home in the 100 block of Piedmont Avenue. The resident, an adult female, was home at the time but was not injured.

The two officers involved, one with 23 and one with 14 years of experience as Hampton Police Officers, have been placed on administrative leave with pay per division policy. The Division is currently conducting two separate investigations; one administrative and one criminal. This is also a standard practice in police involved shootings.  (Link)

This is a good, unbiased release letter, explaining what the police officers involved were doing, when they were working, and some information on results from the action. We know where the deceased was transported and where and when he had died. We know that the policy of the Hampton Police Division is to make forced entries into residence homes when they are able to get a warrant for an illegal prescription drug search. There is some information missing, however, that I hope comes out during the investigation:

  • Why did the police feel they had to enter the home rather than wait for the suspect to leave the house and hand him the warrant before separating him from the home and conducting the search?
  • Did the police make an attempt to serve the warrant in a different location, or otherwise separate the man from the property before the entry?
  • What attempts did the police make to identify themselves as police officers during the forced entry? Is it possible that the elderly gentlemen had hearing or seeing problems due to his advanced age? Is it possible that he did not hear the officers and did not know their identity as police officers?

The Hampton Police Division spokesman, Corporal Jason Price, and Police Chief Chuck Jordan had this to say:

Any time there’s a loss of life, it’s a tragedy,” Price said. “In this instance, because officers are involved, it’s not only a tragedy for the family members who lost a loved one, it’s also a tragedy for the police officers involved. Their lives will also never be the same.

Price said the officers were unhurt:

We are just thankful, in this instance, that the officers are OK and safe and were not injured.

In a statement, Hampton police chief Chuck Jordan said:

The investigation thus far supports the actions of the officers. They were met with deadly force and had no alternative other than to return fire.  (Link)

So the Hampton Police Division is responsible for the shooting death of a 69 year old man, yet the Chief of Police states that the police officers involved did the right thing. This is just as the Chief launches his own internal investigation. Then his spokesman has the guts to deflect the fact that the police killed a Hampton senior citizen by asking us to think about the poor police officers who did the shooting.

Why are we bothering to spend taxpayer money to have the police do a supposedly impartial internal investigation? They had barely started investigating when they had already declared their officers to be innocent of wrongdoing. However, the fact is that there were a series of decisions that led up to this shooting. And these decisions were made by the Hampton Police Division.

First, the police can decide what resources to allocate in searching for law breakers. There are so many laws that people probably commit crimes several times a day. Because of this fact, the police can decide to defend laws that threaten lives and property or laws that regulate behavior. The Hampton Police Division decided to go after a man because he was suspected of owning medicine prescribed to and sold to him by another, or because he sold his prescribed medicine to an unsubscribed person. This is to support federal and state prohibitions against such trade between adults, in an attempt to regulate safety. So you aren’t hurt or killed by your poor decisions. It’s better if the police kill you, I suppose, than take incorrect medicine.

I know a number of people believe the law should be observed and criminals should be punished despite the ridiculousness of the law, but then let’s go over some other Virginia laws. In Virginia it is illegal to have sex with the lights on. In Virginia it is illegal to have sex in anything other than the missionary position. If you are not married in Virginia, it is illegal to have sex, period. It is illegal to have a radar detector. It is illegal to hunt on Sunday. It is illegal to tickle a female. It is illegal for kids to go trick or treating. Supposedly in Norfolk it is illegal for a woman to be outside without a corset and without a male chaperone after dark. In Virginia Beach it is illegal to use profanity while on Atlantic Avenue (see http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/virginia). These laws and others are never enforced, yet they make the majority of Virginians criminals each and every day. They are not enforced because they are stupid laws not befitting treating adults as adults, even if some of the laws were made to enforce public safety and decency. But the difference between these laws and the stupid ones that are enforced is money. Ultimately campaign donations from the health industry are given to federal and state officials to create laws that prevent competition and trade in prescription medication. Then laws are written that grant local police divisions large amounts of state and federal money if they show progress in cracking down on violators. The Hampton Police Division may have a charter to serve Hampton, but there is an unchartered promise to also be the enforcers for state and federal representatives and the lobbyists in which they answer.

Second, the police are the ones who decide the preponderance of force used against criminals. The military uses terms such as ‘reasonable force’ and ‘proportional force to the threat’. You don’t drop a 2,000 pound bomb on a target in the middle of a market square, for instance. You wait until the target is separted from the crowded area or use a different piece of equipment or tactic to neutralize a threat. The police didn’t follow this common sense approach. They decided to use militant tactics against an elderly man; breaking a door down in a poorer residential neighborhood and with guns drawn. That the result was a shooting death is not as much of a shock as the cavalier attitude from the police officers and lack of introspection afterwards. If no one is willing to hold themselves accountable, and if no one in the city government is willing to crack down on such police abuse, then nothing will change and another police-induced tragedy will simply be a matter of time.

I partially blame our own television culture for what occurred. I’m 35 years old, but I always loved the Norman Rockwell pictures from the 40s and 50s. When I was growing up I saw police officers as part of the community and guardians of the peace, mostly because my family doctor had Norman Rockwell pictures of police officers smiling and talking with members of the local community. I imagine that impressionable children, who were attracted to the idea of serving and being on friendly terms with the community, signed up to serve because of such perceptions in American art.

Somewhere in my teen years that perception changed. The police officer became the tough enforcer, breaking down doors and ignoring civil liberties because society needed to be protected from itself. My wife loves prime time, dominated with police dramas where the good guys never get the wrong guy, bullets fired from the police never miss and always kill the worst of society, and there is always the happy ending. Heck, even when they do nab the wrong person, the individual they nab usually ends up guilty of another crime anyway. We have created a perception of the police as aggressive and gun happy, but always right. Such a perception will result in police forces whose recruits are attracted by the promising illusions of such a lifestyle.

Mr. William ‘Bootsie’ Cooper was only a few years older than my own father. My father lives in a similar kind of run down suburban neighborhood. The police justify their actions by saying they have already found four bottles of medication in Mr. Cooper’s home. My father takes the same amount of bottles along with insulin for his diabetes and other health issues. I’m not a fan of medicine and have been known to go for weeks before giving in and asking my family to pick up some NyQuil. But so many other friends and family members take several medications daily. I might not approve, but I wouldn’t want my father or friends to be shot and killed by the police because of it.

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James Quigley is the Chair of the Peninsula Libertarian Party covering Hampton and Newport News.  He is a former active duty military officer with time served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now serving as a contractor.  He has a wife named Nicole and three children: Makenna, Emeline and Thomas.  Mr. Quigley was also a 2010 Congressional candidate under the Libertarian ticket.

6 thoughts on “James Quigley: The Hampton (Va) Police Division’s Killing of William A. Cooper

  1. AroundtheblockAFT

    Advocate for Civilian Review Board, reform police rules for serving warrants on alleged non-violent offenders, partner with other groups in the area – ACLU, NAACP, whichever is the minority political party – , use whatever freedom of information act exists to review the internal findings on this case. The LP talks the talk, it needs to walk the walk wherever such injustices and over-reach of police powers occur.

  2. Kleptocracy and You

    Let’s all be honest, does everyone here truly believe the old guy opened up on the cops. This was 10 AM not 2 AM. Just like we’ve all heard about “drop guns”, don’t put it by police to fire a round into a wall to point blame.

    We are moving more and more toward a police state. These military guys get back from overseas where they were pushing civilians around on a daily basis and these local yocals don’t hesitate to put them in a police uniform. I strongly recommend everyone to tread lightly when dealing with police. They can and will KILL you in a heartbeat…

    The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty. – Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), Austrian Economist and Author

    If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected – those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! – and listens to their testimony. – James Baldwin, African-American Author, “No Name in the Street”

    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military. – William S. Burroughs

    For the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead in the future! – Adolf Hitler

    Only in a police state is the job of a policeman easy. – Orson Welles

    The police can’t stop an intruder, mugger, or stalker from hurting you. They can pursue him only after he has hurt or killed you. Protecting yourself from harm is your responsibility, and you are far less likely to be hurt in a neighborhood of gun-owners than in one of disarmed citizens – even if you don’t own a gun yourself. – Harry Browne

    The pattern is as old as human life. The new rulers use more and more force, more police, more soldiers, trying to enforce more efficient control, trying to make the planned economy work by piling regulations on regulations, decree on decree. The people are hungry and hungrier. And how does a man on this earth get butter? Doesn’t the government give butter? But government does not produce food from the earth; Government is guns. It is one common distinction of all civilized peoples, that they give their guns to the Government. Men in Government monopolize the necessary use of force; they are not using their energies productively; they are not milking cows. To get butter, they must use guns; they have nothing else to use. – Rose Wilder Lane

    But when no risk is taken there is no freedom. It is thus that, in an industrial society, the plethora of laws made for our personal safety convert the land into a nursery, and policemen hired to protect us become selfserving busybodies. – Alan Watts (1915-1973), Tao: The Watercourse Way, 1975

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