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Deputy Remembers the Day He Encountered Cooper

He's charged with killing five people during an 18-month crime spree, but Samuel James Cooper's troubles with the law started more than a decade ago.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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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