Local News

Despite Attacks and Escape, Cooper Freed After 12 Years

Posted November 30, 2007 5:49 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2007 9:44 p.m. EST

— 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.