The pair of narcotics officers were waiting for the drug dealer to come home so they could serve him with a warrant to search his house, thinking they could avoid entering the home guarded by dogs where children slept, one testified Monday morning.
“It’d be easier for us to catch him coming in the house," Officer Lemornet Miller told jurors at the start of Lamar Cooper’s murder trial. “We would stop him and hope he cooperated for the safety of his kids and anyone else in the household.”
Only when they approached Cooper’s car in front of the house around 7 a.m. Sept. 28, 2008, shots rang out and Miller’s partner, Officer Nathaniel Taylor Jr., was hit in his chest and head. Miller fired back 10 times, wounding Cooper in the car.
“I could see his face. I could see a little grin on his face,” Miller said. “I kept shooting, walking and shooting.”
Then he ran to his bleeding partner lying on the sidewalk.
“I can hear him breathing, I can hear his rasping breathing,” Miller, 39, said, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “At the top of his head, I could see brain matter sticking out of his head.
“I kept talking to him, telling him he was going to be all right.”
Taylor, a 39-year-old husband and father to a little girl, died later that evening at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Cooper, now 40, is on trial on charges of first-degree murder and three counts of possessing controlled substances for the drugs police found in his house in the 7900 block of South Clyde Avenue.
Jurors will not hear that he already served a prison sentence for the attempted murder of another Chicago police officer in 1990, nor that he had faced the death penalty in Taylor’s murder before the state banned capital punishment last year.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez briefly joined Taylor’s family and uniformed officers who packed the benches of Judge Nicholas Ford’s courtroom.
Taylor’s colleagues later searched Cooper’s home and found two more guns, a crossbow and arrows, stashes of cocaine and marijuana, and records leading to safe deposit boxes at a local bank containing some $260,000 in cash, Assistant State’s Attorney James McKay said during opening statements. They also found police scanners and a bulletproof vest, he said, all tools of a drug dealer.
Paramedics trying to revive Cooper found two baggies of cocaine in his mouth, McKay said.
Police found Taylor’s service gun next to him on the pavement, McKay continued.
“It had never been fired,” McKay said. “Cooper never gave him the chance.”
Acknowledging Cooper was a drug dealer, his attorney, Susan Smith, said he who believed he was about to get robbed on a dark morning outside his house.
“He’s got drugs on him, he’s got money on him, he’s got his house keys on him. Inside his house are three things more precious to him -- his wife and kids,” she said.
He didn’t know he was shooting at a police officer, she said. Sitting in his parked car, Cooper didn’t hear the officer identify himself. And in a red T-shirt and jeans, Taylor wore nothing bearing a CPD logo.
“The sole identification he had on -- and you will decide if he did -- was a star in a starholder,” she told jurors. “If you judge this case fairly, you’ll find Lamar Cooper acted in self defense.”