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Despite Attacks and Escape, Cooper Freed After 12 Years

Posted November 30, 2007
Updated December 2, 2007

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— Many people are asking questions about a man accused of being a serial killer and his previous prison sentence.

Did Samuel Cooper serve enough time for his earlier crimes before he was released? Did the system fail?

Sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery, Samuel Cooper served eight years of that sentence. He also served four more years before being released because, while serving the robbery sentence, he escaped, attacked four law-enforcement officers, stole a Department of Correction van, and attacked an elderly man and stole his car.

Wake County Sheriff’s Deputy Yalanda Moore was just a few months out of the police academy when she came face to face with Samuel Cooper in the county courthouse.

“I do recall one of my first emotions being that I had to survive,” Moore said Friday.

It was eight years ago when Moore was bringing Cooper back to his holding cell.

“I unlocked his handcuff. The swivel came around, and he came up and he punched me in the jaw,” Moore said. “I was thinking I cannot let this individual take my weapon from my holster.”

“He was yanking it up,” trying to get the gun free, she said.

For that attack and attempting to escape, Samuel Cooper served an additional 14 months.

“It was surprising to me that the assault on an officer in the courthouse was a misdemeanor,” said Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree. Cooper attacked a total of four officers while in custody, Acree said.

“One of these is an officer that got attacked in the prison library. One of these is a sergeant who was head-butted in a case manager’s office,” Acree said.

Cooper also attacked another correction officer when he escaped from a work crew and stole the officer's van. Before his capture, Cooper attacked an elderly man and stole his car as well.

Why was he released?

“He served what the law required him to serve,” Acree said, explaining that the prison system had no choice but to release Cooper.

Cooper walked out of prison last year after serving eight of the 20 years for the initial armed robbery and a total of four more years for his attacks on officers and the elderly man and for the escape.

“Is this system working? When you look at a case like this, it's hard to say it does. You would certainly think for behavior like this, you should serve more time in prison,” Acree said.

“We enforce the sentences handed down by the courts based on the laws the Legislature writes,” Acree said.

Earlier this year, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have upgraded the charge for assaulting a law enforcement officer.

The bill would have made any inflicted injury, not only "serious assaults," a felony. That could add a year in prison to the sentence of anyone convicted of an assault similar to Cooper's.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • dlb800 Dec 3, 2007

    This guy is a poster child for capital punishment. If a person can't live in society, then he shouldn't live at all.

    As for the "democrat" or "liberal" comments. I am a conservative, and I can understand why the comments were made.
    "IN GENERAL" liberals and democrats are much more lenient than
    conservatives when it comes to crimes, sich as opposing capital punishment and so on. That doesn't not say that there are not lenient conservatives or republicians, and that there are democrats and liberals who are not lenient. It just means
    that "in general", they are more liberals are more lenient than

  • Cable Dec 3, 2007

    Look we have to release the Violent ones to make room for those with petty drug charges. Duh!

  • CSMs Alter Ego Dec 2, 2007


    I'm a reasonable person and wouldn't have a problem with any of those scenarios. When someone takes actions like he did, sometimes you have to put the highest charge on him and take it to trial if he doesn't plead. There is NO doubt in my mind that he was taking the gun for keeps. You talk about circumstantial evidence, in what circumstances would he NOT keep the gun if he got it?

  • oldschool Dec 2, 2007

    "He was trying to escape from custody by taking the officer's gun. Do you think he would have given it back once he escaped? Proving intent shouldn't be a problem."

    Proving things to a jury is always easy to people who've never actually had to do it. Proving intent is the hardest thing there is because intent, by definition, can only be proven by circumstantial evidence.

    Sorry, but the ADA was right. Keep in mind, FIRST you have to convince the jury that the cop is telling the truth (which is getting harder and harder these days), THEN you have to prove that the criminal intended to escape with the gun or assault the officer with it.

    Reasonable doubt is the highest leagal standard there is. Trying to convince juries to convict people for crimes in which a law as written was clearly intended for completely different facts is very, very difficult.

  • richard2 Dec 2, 2007

    Dear justice system,
    Please let us poor taxpayers know before you turn him loose next time, so we can be ready.

  • mathforall Dec 2, 2007

    many of you seem to be forgetting that Mr. Cooper was orginially sentenced to 20 and served 12 under old law. If the original crimes he committed were committed today he would serve his twenty. Ok, closer to his 20. Natural life under new law is natural life.

  • slappyh99 Dec 2, 2007

    Parole boards are not law enforcement.

  • nbforrest Dec 2, 2007

    Wonder why people talk about law inforcement. Are parole boards civilians or law inforcement. If they are civilians, something needs to be changed! These parole boards are idiots! People that deal with these crimminals every day know more about them.

  • CSMs Alter Ego Dec 2, 2007

    ""I posted this early, attempted robbery and larceny of a firearm IS a felony. But sometimes ADAs aren't the smartest in the bunch......."

    It's only a crime if you can prove the intent to permenantly deprive the owner.

    Good luck with that."

    He was trying to escape from custody by taking the officer's gun. Do you think he would have given it back once he escaped? Proving intent shouldn't be a problem.

  • oldschool Dec 1, 2007

    "Why doesn't NC have the 3 strikes law? "

    We do, now. The problem is, this guy was sentenced under the old "Fair Sentencing" Guidelines. Most people served about one month for every year of their sentence under those guidelines.

    We have structured sentencing and mandatory minimums now. (Although, if I recall correctly, his sentence would not have been much more than this was.)