Concordia man guilty of assault on police officer

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Steven J. Cooper Jr., 26, of Concordia, was found guilty of class A misdemeanor assault in the third degree on a law enforcement officer by Judge James T. "Tut" Bellamy in a bench trial Wednesday, Feb. 17.

According to testimony by Sweet Springs Police Officers Tammy Johnson and Melvin Taber, initial contact with Cooper was instigated by a phone call to the department, advising a woman was being assaulted at a Sweet Springs car wash.

The incident report says two witnesses at the car wash told officers they saw Cooper in the act of attacking Shauna Foose, later identified as Cooper's girlfriend. One witness said he saw Cooper standing over Foose, who was on the ground, and that Cooper put his hands around her neck "as though he was trying to strangle her."

Johnson said Cooper and Foose were not at the car wash when she arrived to investigate, but that bystanders directed her to a nearby home, where, she testified, both "appeared to be intoxicated."

Under questioning by Saline County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Johnson said Cooper told her "Nothing's going on," and "I never hit my old lady -- I don't do that."

Johnson said Cooper became agitated when she told him he was being arrested on suspicion of domestic assault, insisting he "didn't do anything wrong."

As testimony continued, Johnson said Cooper became "combative and agitated" on arrival at the police department, asking multiple times why he was being arrested, at one point shouting, "Concordia police always let me go."

Johnson said Cooper began to struggle, and charged at her, trapping her between the corner of the open patrol car door and the frame of the vehicle, knocking off her glasses. Johnson and Taber then took Cooper into an office for processing.

Taber said he was interviewing witnesses in another room at the police station when he heard the escalating disturbance from the office where Johnson and Cooper were, and said he again had to assist in regaining control of Cooper.

When Cooper continued to behave inappropriately, Taber said, he and Johnson decided to transport Cooper to Saline County Justice Facility on a 24-hour investigative hold.

Both Johnson and Taber said Cooper became even more aggressive as they walked him to the patrol car, particularly when he saw Foose. They testified he shouted at her, "Look what you did. You ... got me arrested ..."

Johnson said Cooper continued to struggle until he was told pepper spray would be employed if he continued.

The testimony of both Cooper and Foose was markedly at odds with that of the officers.

Foose, questioned by public defender Bret Kaiser, said she was not intoxicated on the day of the incident, and she'd had "only one or two beers." She denied that Cooper had attacked her.

When Kaiser asked if Cooper had said anything to her at the police station, as he was being taken to the patrol car, Foose said, "He tried to talk to me."

Cooper said he still doesn't know why he was arrested.

"There were five people there to say nothing happened, and I was still arrested," he said. "It just seemed like (Johnson) was just angry ... she wouldn't listen to me."

Cooper said it was Johnson who "charged at me, they grabbed me."

"I was trying to give my side of the story. There was no struggle, she charged at me," he said.

When asked if he had shoved Johnson into the side of the patrol car, Cooper insisted he hadn't.

Cooper said, "I was not struggling," when Kaiser asked him if he remembered the struggle at the patrol car. "I was just trying to tell my story. I never touched Shauna at all."

In his closing, Kaiser said the state's case was "thin."

"They shoehorned the assault on a law enforcement charge because they didn't have the evidence for the domestic assault charge," he continued.

"The state's out for blood for the wrong reasons," he concluded.

When Bellamy pronounced the sentence of guilty, he spoke directly to Cooper.

"Mr. Cooper, part of the problem is you were drunk, combative, aggressive. You made the fatal mistake of allowing (the situation) to escalate. And it is clear to me that you are guilty."

Sentencing has been deferred; a hearing will be held March 17. Kaiser indicated he will file a motion for a new trial.

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