Police Say Starbucks Suspect Described Killings
By Peter Slevin
He demanded the keys, but Mary Caitrin Mahoney said no, according to Cooper's account. He fired a warning shot into the ceiling. Mahoney ran into the hall. Cooper caught her and wrestled her for the keys. She resisted, and he shot her dead.
Cooper said he then turned and shot two remaining Starbucks workers. When one moaned, still alive, the gunman shot him twice more in the head. Without grabbing any money, Cooper hurried from the Wisconsin Avenue NW store, raced across town, ditched his guns and washed the blood from his clothes.
The details come from a D.C. police affidavit unsealed yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, where Cooper was ordered held without bond in the slayings of the three employees. Cooper waived his right to silence and gave, in writing, a detailed account of the killings, according to the affidavit.
In court, Cooper clasped his hands behind his back and said nothing. His court-appointed attorney, Steven R. Kiersh, told Hearing Commissioner Pamela Young Diaz that Cooper will not say more without a lawyer present. Cooper's account emerged during two days of intensive questioning at Prince George's County police headquarters.
"We ask that no one in any case make any attempt to speak with Mr. Cooper outside my presence," Kiersh said yesterday. Prosecutor Kenneth L. Wainstein's request that hair and blood samples be taken from Cooper will be honored by the defense without objection.
The unsealed affidavit opens a window into a murder case that for 20 months was one of the city's ugliest mysteries. Signed by Lt. Brian Reed McAllister, who heads the special investigations squad at D.C. homicide, the document indicates that Cooper left a few clues early and talked up a storm once in custody.
Cooper, 29, told investigators that he spent about a month planning to rob the Starbucks at 1810 Wisconsin Ave. NW, just north of Georgetown. A prosecution witness, identified in the affidavit only as a "close friend" of Cooper's, told police that Cooper invited him to participate in the robbery.
The witness said that he agreed to take part but that Cooper never followed up and did not take him along, an account that police said Cooper verified during hours of questioning. Cooper acted alone and fired two guns during the slayings, police said, a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver and a .380-caliber pistol.
As he plotted the robbery, Cooper said, he wanted to make sure there was plenty of cash the night he struck. So he chose a Sunday night, and not just any Sunday night, but the end of a busy Fourth of July weekend.
Just to be sure that business was brisk, Cooper told police, he visited the Starbucks that morning. By the time he parked his car in upscale Burleith and walked into the shop after closing time, the safe held more than $10,000.
Cooper announced that he was robbing the store, and he forced the three Starbucks workers into a rear office, where the safe was located. Mary Caitrin Mahoney, 25, known as Caity, was the manager on duty. The other employees were Emory Allen Evans and Aaron David Goodrich.
After Mahoney's refusal to yield the keys, the warning shot and the struggle over the keys, Cooper shot Mahoney first with one pistol, then with the other, five times in all. He remembered shooting Evans, 25, three times. The second two shots were intended "to put him out of his pain," the affidavit said. He shot Goodrich, 18, once.
A Starbucks supervisor found the bodies the next morning. McAllister said the details provided by Cooper match evidence from the crime scene. Police found a bullet in the ceiling and 10 shell casings, and the shooting pattern that Cooper described is consistent with the autopsy results, McAllister reported.
Cooper, the son of a church deacon, lived with his wife and 4-year-old son in the 1200 block of Gallatin Street NE. He was arrested March 1 by Prince George's police, who charged him with attempted murder in the 1996 shooting in a Hyattsville park of Officer Bruce Howard, then off-duty.
District police got a break in the case after "America's Most Wanted" repeated an episode about the unsolved Starbucks case. A woman called with a tip, saying she was dating a man who knew Cooper. The man had told her that Cooper admitted being the Starbucks killer.
The woman wore a hidden microphone at the request of D.C. police, who recorded her conversations with her boyfriend about Cooper and the case. D.C. police also tapped Cooper's telephone, with judicial permission. With Prince George's police investigating the Howard shooting, the two departments and the FBI worked together to put Cooper under a microscope.
Police said earlier this month that Cooper at one point told detectives that a friend named Keith Covington joined him in the Starbucks robbery and shot the three victims. Questioned for 15 hours, Covington denied everything, took a polygraph test and passed. He was not charged.
"If I killed them, I'd say I killed them. But that's not me. I'm not saying I'm a saint, but I'm not going to go out and kill people," Covington, who grew up with Cooper in North Michigan Park, said after he was released. "You've got to be a dummy or a psycho to do something like that. That was evil."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company