HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — A slain Las Vegas federal court guard was eulogized Monday as a dedicated police officer and public servant who loved his family, horses, crossword puzzles and doughnuts, and who didn’t hesitate to do his duty even in the face of an armed gunman.
“His death, while tragic, saved lives from a deadly, well-planned attack,” court security co-worker Michael Gerrity said of Stanley Cooper, 72, his friend killed Jan. 4 in a shootout with a shotgun-wielding assailant at the main federal court building in Las Vegas.
“Stan did his duty to protect and to serve,” Gerrity said. “Stan and his fellow officers made it possible for every man, woman and child in the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse to go home to their families safely that day.”
U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign, U.S. Marshals Service Director John Clark and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie were among those who spoke to more than 1,500 family members, friends, elected officials, judges and law enforcers in the memorial service and funeral at a Henderson church. More than 40 police motorcycles led a motorcade on the Las Vegas Strip and an area freeway was led by, taking five minutes to pass.
“Tears are fine,” said Jud Wilhite, senior pastor of the church with an auditorium large enough to host the crowd, bagpipers and color guard that bore Cooper’s flag-draped coffin. “But Stan would have wanted us to celebrate.”
Many called him a hero. Clark noted that Cooper had 45 years of law enforcement service, after starting as a police officer in 1960 in his hometown, Tulsa, Okla. He moved to Las Vegas in 1964.
His pastor, Chris Pruitt, said that during a stint as an appliance repairman after retiring as a police sergeant, Cooper used to buy washing machine parts to repair appliances for customers who couldn’t afford them themselves.
“He lived to serve others,” Pruitt said.
Cooper became a federal court security officer for Akal Security Inc. in 1994. People remember his easy smile and reassuring presence. Gerrity recalled Cooper stashing doughnuts in his locker and clipping crosswords and coupons, then carefully folding the newspaper so unsuspecting co-workers wouldn’t know which parts were missing.
“Stan loved his family, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his God, his home life, his horses, his position as a court security officer,” Gerrity said. “Stan Cooper was the last person in the world ever to give someone a hard time. It wasn’t in his nature.”
Reid called it “saddening and maddening to think of how much hatred and evil we must deflect and defend every day,” and called it impossible to know how many lives were saved when Cooper and his colleagues repelled the attack.
“Through his courageous life, Stan Cooper reminds us there are still good men and women who, when they wake up every morning and go to work each day, put everything on the line for people they don’t even know,” Reid said.
Authorities later identified the gunman as Johnny Lee Wicks, a 66-year-old ex-convict originally from Memphis, Tenn., who lost a lawsuit last year claiming racial discrimination after his Social Security benefits were cut.
The FBI said Wicks set fire to his Las Vegas apartment and walked three miles to the federal building before pulling a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun from beneath his black trench coat and opening fire.
Cooper was mortally wounded, but returned one of 81 shots fired by seven court officers and U.S. marshals.
Officials said Richard Gardner, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service, was wounded by one of five shotgun blasts that Wicks fired. Gardner, 48, was treated at University Medical Center and released the next day.
Wicks was wounded in the stomach and shot in the head by his pursuers. He died in desert landscaping in front of a historic schoolhouse that has been converted to offices across Las Vegas Boulevard.