Published Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 | 2:10 a.m.
Updated Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 | 7:51 p.m.
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Hundreds gathered Monday afternoon to pay their respects to slain court security officer Stanley Cooper, who died in a hail of gunfire Jan. 4 at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas.
Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign were two of the more than half-dozen speakers who addressed hundreds of mourners at Central Christian Church in Henderson.
Both senators have offices in the building where Cooper, 72, was fatally shot by a disgruntled man who opened fire with a shotgun shortly after 8 a.m. a week earlier.
“We cannot know how many lives were saved because Stan Cooper gave his,” Reid said. “(But what) we can know is deep, indescribable gratitude -- appreciation beyond the confines of our vocabulary -- for men like Stan who volunteer every day to be our first line of defense.”
Reid, like many other speakers, called Cooper a hero.
“It’s saddening and maddening to think of how much hatred and evil we must deflect and defend every day,” Reid said. “But through his courageous life, Stan Cooper reminds us that there are still good men and women who, when they wake up every morning and go to work each day, they put everything on the line to protect people they don’t even know.”
Authorities have identified 66-year-old Johnny Lee Wicks as the man responsible for the shooting that left Cooper dead and Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard J. Gardner, 48, wounded. Wicks was said to be upset over changes to his Social Security benefits.
In addressing the crowd, Ensign referred to an incident a few years ago on Capitol Hill involving an armed man who fired shots inside the building.
“It was a couple of brave officers on that day who gave their life just like Stan gave his life on January Fourth,” he said.
Ensign said he knew Cooper from his frequent trips in and out of the federal courthouse. He said he and his staff noticed how he was “always there with a smile.”
Ensign also commended the other law enforcement officers in attendance at the ceremony for their public service.
“(Cooper) was the one willing to take a bullet, just like each and every one of you who put on that uniform. You are willing to put your life down to protect the rest of us. Those of you on the front line, we owe, literally, our very lives to you for your willingness to protect us.”
Cooper was a resident of Sandy Valley, southwest of Las Vegas. He became a court security officer in 1994. Before that, he spent 26 years with Metro Police and retired as a sergeant.
He was born in Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 30, 1937, and worked as an officer in Oklahoma for four years. He had been a Nevada resident since 1964.
John Clark, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, expressed condolences to Cooper's family and thanked Cooper for his duty, courage and bravery.
“I bet Stanley Cooper would not want to be called a hero. Neither would his fellow CSOs or deputy marshals and detention officers who stood in the way of evil last Monday,” Clark said. “They overcame evil with good because, in that age-old contest, good always wins out over evil.
“We owe Stan and (the other officers) a great debt of gratitude for saving countless lives by taking action, not shrinking back, and being bold as a lion.”
Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he was honored when Cooper’s family asked him to speak at the service.
“He was a good, solid cop,” Gillespie said, commending his 26 years with Metro Police.
“In our society, we often label people heroes for their performance in a singular, spectacular event. But it seems to me that a lifetime of quiet, dedicated service is more heroic and admirable than any single act,” Gillespie said.
He encouraged everyone to remember Stan Cooper as a hero, “Not because he died in a gunfight in the courthouse steps, but because he quietly and faithfully lived his life in service of others.”
Cooper was an active member of his church and enjoyed spending time with his family and horses, his pastor said during the service.
Pastor Chris Pruitt said Cooper devoted his life to protecting the citizens of Las Vegas during his time as a Metro Police officer and later as a court security officer. Cooper was a member of Pruitt's Northside Christian Church.
"He was the type who had a strong and reassuring presence," Pruitt said. “Stan devoted his life to protecting the citizens of Las Vegas. He put himself in danger every day so that we could go about our daily lives, never worrying, always knowing that we were safe.”
He recounted a story about Cooper’s time as a traffic sergeant on a day he was patrolling an intersection looking for speeders. A young man flew through the intersection and, out of the corner of his eye, saw Cooper’s radar gun pointed at him.
That man was Marshall “Marty” Cooper, one of Cooper’s four sons.
“Panicked, he turned around to see if this officer was going to come after him and give him a ticket – but instead, what he saw was a great big grin on the face of his father, with a great big ‘gotcha’ look on his face,” Pruitt said.
Cooper didn’t give his son a ticket, but it gave “new meaning to the phrase ‘wait ‘til your father gets home.’ Sure enough: When Stan returned home after his shift, Marty got an earful,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt wasn’t the only one with stories about Cooper to share. Friend and coworker Michael Garrity, who worked with Cooper at the courthouse for 16 years, said Cooper had many loves: family, God, horses and his position as a court security officer. He also had an affinity for donuts, the crossword puzzle and the “Jerry Springer Show.”
He said Cooper would arrive in the morning and cut the crossword puzzle and coupons from the paper, then refold it so no one would know it had been touched.
Garrity held up a newspaper with a number of squares cut out.
“This is what you get to read if Stan beat you to it,” he said.
At lunchtime, it was “Jerry Springer” for Cooper and his colleagues.
“Stan loved to watch ‘Jerry Springer’ and laugh at some of the weirdoes on that show. And if some of them had that certain twang in their voice, we would be quick to tell him ‘that one’s from Tulsa.’”
He said Cooper would grin and say, “you know, you’re probably right about that one,” then sit back and chuckle.
He commended his friend for standing his post and making the ultimate sacrifice.
“He gave his life to protect the occupants of the federal courthouse: it wasn’t a warzone in some desert country, in a jungle or on a distant battlefield. It was a war zone right in our place of work,” he said.
One of Cooper's favorite bluegrass groups, the Warburton Family, performed the song "Nearer My God to Thee" at the service, which began shortly after 1 p.m. at Central Christian Church, 1001 New Beginnings Drive.
Before the services began, the casket passed by the mourners as bagpipers and drummers played. Some saluted the casket -- others put a hand over their heart.
The funeral procession started at about 11:30 a.m. in downtown Las Vegas, continued south along the Las Vegas Strip, then along Interstate 215 to Henderson, prompting closures along the route.
More than 30 Metro motorcycle officers escorted the body to the church. The processional parked at the edge of the church’s parking lot before traveling beneath a giant American flag suspended by two fire department ladder trucks.
The flag-draped casket was in the back of a Metro Police truck. The family walked behind, accompanied by the honor and color guards. Mounted officers followed behind with the riderless horse honoring the fallen officer.
As the casket arrived at the entrance of the church, dozens of uniformed officers, both Metro Police and deputy U.S. Marshals, stood at attention, saluting.
As Monday’s funeral service ended, taps was played and a gun salute shattered the air. Five helicopters flew over the church. Deputy marshals and Metro Police officers walked past the casket, gave a salute and bid their fellow officer a final farewell. Both Reid and Ensign paused and placed their hands on the casket for a brief moment before passing it by.
The flag that draped the casket was ceremonially folded and presented to family members.
Cooper is survived by a brother, four sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His body was to be cremated.