“Hope y’all are doing all right. Y’all got some job training?” he asked Christopher Taylor, 23, and Lynard Mayrant, 26.
As it happened, the men had just completed a fruitless, day-long, job hunt. They had gone from Eastover Shopping Center in Oxon Hill to Chinatown in the District. They had hit up a McDonald’s, a Downtown Locker Room, a Shoe City. Nothing.
Copeland shoved fliers for a nearby job training program into the men’s hands. Then he quickly pivoted to his true purpose: spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Let me ask you: Do you believe He died for you and He rose in three days? Are you guys ready? Because He’s coming back,” Copeland said before launching into a 15-minute street corner theology session, which ended with gifts of King James Bibles and an invitation to Copeland’s Tuesday night Bible study at the library.
Just a few years ago, Copeland might have stopped Taylor on a Southeast street corner for a different line of questioning. Copeland is a veteran D.C. police narcotics investigator, and Taylor, at that time, was a suspected drug dealer.
Taylor has since served his sentence for distributing cocaine, but he remains on supervised probation. He is homeless, and with a daughter to provide for, he says he often feels tempted by the idea of fast cash. He listened closely as Copeland spoke.
“We have all messed up, but we have to give God a try,” Copeland said.
Taylor smiled and thanked him before walking off with Mayrant into the night.
Arriving late to faith
Copeland believes that God gave him the “gift of gab.” As a young man, he liked to use it on the ladies. During his 24-year career as a D.C. police investigator, he’s used it to coax information from street informants and witnesses.
And for the past five years, he’s used it, he says, to bring the troubled and needy to God, and to his family’s Christian outreach group, “I am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Ministry,” which provides food, clothing and job help.
His personal call to faith came relatively late in life.
As a child, Copeland attended Baptist services with his mother’s family and Mass with his paternal grandmother, who raised him along Sheridan Road, near Suitland Parkway in Southeast. But that religious upbringing gave way during adolescence and young adulthood to the lure of young women, go-go dancing and nightclubs.
Copeland’s police career began in 1988 after only two years at Norfolk State University, and he quickly made his way into investigating prostitution, gambling, drugs and murder. He earned a medal of valor during a shooting at police headquarters as one of the rescuers of a wounded FBI agent, one of seven honors accrued during a distinguished career.