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Deputy Remembers the Day He Encountered Cooper

Posted November 29, 2007

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— From a prison escape to his court sentencing to the current robberies and homicides he's suspected of committing, Samuel James Cooper has crossed paths with plenty of law-enforcement personnel, including Wake County sheriff's deputy Bill Burgess.

A deputy for 17 years, Burgess said his face-to-face encounter with Cooper eight years ago is one that stands out more than any other.

"The man I came into contact with that afternoon was a very dangerous man," Burgess said.

That encounter came in 1999 after Cooper, who was serving time for a 1994 armed robbery conviction, made his escape with two other inmates when they attacked their supervisor, overpowered him and took control of his vehicle. He was apprehended a few days later in Benson.

Three months later, he was back in court to be sentenced for the escape when he attacked a female deputy.

"It was a day I'll never forget," Burgess said. "It was very scary."

Burgess, who was in another courtroom and ran to help, said Cooper had knocked down the deputy.

"One hand was actually around her neck," he said. "And the other hand was on her weapon – and he was jerking at the gun, trying to get the gun out of the holster."

Two safety snaps on the holster bought Burgess just enough time to jump in and help, he said.

"I struck him with everything I possibly had in my right arm, just as hard as I could," he said.

Cooper was released from prison seven years later in February 2006.

Last week, he was arrested at a Domino's Pizza distribution center in Garner after he allegedly robbed a nearby Bank of America.

That arrest started a chain of events that investigators say links Cooper to five unsolved murders dating to May 2006 and a string of other violent crimes, including armed robbery and home invasion in Rockingham County.

"I was very surprised he was back on the street," Burgess said. "I am not surprised of his actions and what he's been charged with."


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  • jackadoo Nov 30, 2007

    Sorry the deputy could not hit him harder. This man is clearly an animal in the worst way. Sorry I have to wait for all of those death penalty opponents to hold their candle light vigil for him.

  • WRALSUCKS Nov 30, 2007

    "Maybe the Governor will make some major changes, he needs to!!"

    What we need, is a major change in Governor!

  • WRALSUCKS Nov 30, 2007

    "You might want to examine the real problem. WHAT OR WHO CREATED THESE MONSTORS (sic) "

    I don't care what or who... that's beside the point. I want these animals off the street.

  • G-man Nov 30, 2007

    He was "released" because he completed his sentence. The only inmates that don't get released sooner or later are the ones with Life sentences.

  • MrMan Nov 30, 2007

    If the police would not fear the justice system for trying to prosecute them when they use deadly force this violent felon could have been put out of his and our misery long ago, let the police do their jobs and then we will be able to let the judges get a job at Wal mart.

  • gentrytwin2 Nov 30, 2007

    THE NC JUSTICE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE ON THE SAME GROUNDS AS OTHER STATES!! This man should not have even been out on the street!! Maybe the Governor will make some major changes, he needs to!!

  • cal317 Nov 30, 2007

    Why was he released??????????????????? Every one of the families that have been affected by this scum should bring lawsuits against the Raleigh police dept and the city of Raleigh.

  • UpwardlyMobile Nov 30, 2007

    The more I read about this guy, the more I can't figure out why he was out of prison. It doesn't take an expert to know that this guy would never be a normal, functioning member of society. Again, he should never have been released from prison.

  • 68_polara Nov 30, 2007

    I learned a lot about the sentencing in North Carolina when I was a Juror in Durham County. We got to watch the Judge force a plea bargain in a case where a previously convicted felon got two years for violently assaulting employees at two different convenience stores in the same night, he was on a rampage, he ended up serving 1 year of his sentence and has probably killed some one by now. The evidence was rock solid, eye witnesses security cameras, we all knew it was him the only reason the Judge forced a plea bargain was so that he could impose a lighter sentence than what was mandated. The most important and unfortunate lesson learned from the experience was the realization that your safety and your family's safety is up to you because if you are a victim of a violent crime in Durham you will not receive justice in a Durham's court room.

  • 68_polara Nov 30, 2007

    They can keep on arresting them again and again but it really doesn't matter as long as the liberal judges in North Carolina keep on setting convicted violent felons free. This man should not have been free when he killed all five of these people. Get out and vote and elect conservative judges that will let violent felons rot in jail.