Local News

Surveillance video captured shooting death

Posted March 25, 2010 2:08 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2010 6:44 p.m. EDT

— Jurors in the capital murder trial of Samuel James Cooper on Thursday watched surveillance video from a Raleigh convenience store that captured the shooting death of one of Cooper's alleged victims.

The grainy video clip depicts a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt, dark mask and dark gloves entering Bobby's Grocery on the morning of Oct. 14, 2007.

The store's owner, Tariq Hussain, is behind the counter, on the phone with a gun drawn, when an assailant walks toward him, aims his gun and fires.

Hussain falls to the floor. The masked gunman steps over him, takes money from the cash register, turns and flees.

The clip lasts less than 20 seconds.

Prosecutors say Hussain, 52, was attempting to use his own gun to defend himself and his business before Cooper shot him twice.

Cooper, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in the case, as well as four other shooting deaths in and near Raleigh during a 17-month period in 2006 and 2007.

Michelle Tharpe, a regular customer at Bobby's, testified Thursday, the seventh day of the trial, that she found Hussain lying on his right side, almost in a fetal position, when she stopped by the store the morning of the crime to get something to drink.

"You could see directly behind the front counter, and the owner was lying with blood everywhere," she said. "He wasn't moving."

Raleigh police officer Matthew Slocum testified to seeing a bloody boot print near Hussain's head.

Hussain, prosecutors say, was Cooper's final victim.

Dr. Deborah Radish, associate chief medical examiner for the state, testified that Hussain died from two gunshot wounds to the upper chest and lower neck.

"(Both) had such severe damage that, unless someone had been there to fix it, I don't think either one of these wounds would have been survivable," she said.

Jurors have already heard this week about the other four shootings in which Cooper is charged – Ossama Haj-Hussain, 43, on May 12, 2006; LeRoy Jernigan, 41, on June 3, 2006; Timothy Barnwell, 34, on April 27, 2007; and Ricky High, 48, on Oct. 12, 2007.

Police initially arrested Cooper in November 2007 on a bank robbery charge and subsequently connected him to the deaths through a gun he dropped while fleeing, investigators have testified.

Prosecutors say the motives in four of the shootings was robbery.

High was an unintended target in an argument between Cooper and two suspected gang members, witnesses testified Wednesday and Thursday. But once Cooper realized that he knew High, he had to kill him, too, so that he could not identify him, they said.

Defense attorneys haven't denied that Cooper shot the five men but say his violent upbringing, including years of physical abuse at his father's hands, made him develop a diminished capacity that affects his ability to think clearly, particularly in moments of stress, and causing him to act impulsively.

During cross-examination Thursday of Raleigh homicide detective George Passley, they pointed out that Cooper said in a confession that he always tried to be "kind and nice" to people he robbed at gunpoint.

Prosecutors further questioned Passley about other statements Cooper made.

One included a story about how Cooper was concerned that the male acquaintance of a female friend was trying to set him up. He told Passley in a recorded interview that he had a plan to "put them both in Jordan Lake."

But he did not.

Nor did he shoot and kill his victims in approximately a dozen other robberies to which he confessed to Passley, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Adam Moyers pointed out.

Moyers wanted to know if such statements demonstrated Cooper "exercising restraint."

"He's making all these calculated decisions on when he's going to do things and when he's not?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," Passley answered.