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  Starbucks Suspect 'Just Started Shooting'

By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 27, 1999; Page B1

The Starbucks Murders
Carl Cooper (William J. Hennessy Jr. for The Washington Post)

March 18: Starbucks Suspect Describes Killing Three
March 18: Full Text of Starbucks Affidavit
March 6: Lone Starbucks Suspect Charged
March 3: Man Questioned in Series of Crimes
July 6, 1998: Killings Remain Unsolved
Sept. 30, 1997: Police Delay Seizing Possible Evidence
July 8, 1997: 3 Slain at D.C. Starbucks
Mary Caitrin Mahoney, one of three victims shot and killed in a botched robbery at a Starbucks coffeehouse, nearly escaped from the gunman charged in the killings, making it to the sidewalk outside the store before the man caught her and wrestled her back inside.

Then the shooting rampage began.

"The girl took off running. I caught her right outside the door," said Carl Derek Cooper in written statements allegedly given to Prince George's County detectives. "I kept telling her to give me the keys, but she kept fighting me. I kept reaching for the keys, and then she went for the [gun]. It went off.

"Everything else is like a dream. . . . I just started shooting."

When the shooting ended in the coffeehouse at 1810 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Mahoney, 25, the store manager, was dead, as were employees Emory Evans, 25, and Aaron David Goodrich, 18.

The statements were released yesterday after a four-hour preliminary hearing in D.C. Superior Court, where he will be tried on three counts of first-degree felony murder while armed. His signed statements were given to Prince George's police because Cooper was in custody there on unrelated charges.

The statements released by prosecutors are the first detailed accounts from authorities about how Cooper allegedly planned and carried out the robbery on July 5, 1997. According to authorities, he talked to Prince George's detectives over 54 hours in early March, saying at one point that he would have admitted his involvement in the deaths to D.C. police a year earlier if city detectives had respected him and not harassed his family.

During the hearing, Cooper's attorney, Steve Kiersh, questioned Cooper's lengthy interrogation by county police and said authorities have no physical evidence linking him to the scene.

But prosecutors say they have witnesses who can place Cooper at the store. They said that Cooper knows things about the crime scene that only the killer would know -- and all of those things came out in Cooper's lengthy statements.

Police and prosecutors allege that the slayings at Starbucks unfolded this way, based on Cooper's statement to county police:

Cooper, 29, said he planned to rob the Starbucks for a month and went to the shop early Sunday, July 5, 1997, after dropping his mother off at Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, where his late father was a deacon. He said he "cased" the shop to "make sure they were doing a lot of business."

Armed with two handguns -- a .38 caliber revolver and a .380 caliber automatic -- Cooper returned to Starbucks that evening after parking his car about a block away. A friend had planned to participate in the robbery, Cooper told police, but Cooper couldn't reach him. "I didn't want to miss my window of opportunity, so I went alone," he said.

Cooper went through the unlocked front door and asked for the manager. Mahoney stepped forward. Cooper ordered the three employees -- Mahoney, Evans and Goodrich -- to the back office where the safe was kept. Mahoney refused, and Cooper said he "fired a warning shot into the ceiling."

That's when Mahoney ran. She made it outside, but Cooper caught her. The two struggled. She reached for the .380, he said, and it went off.

"I just started shooting her," according to his statements. "I shot her two or three times with the .380. I pulled the .38 back out and shot her once with that.

"[Goodrich] gets up and tries to run, and there's more shooting. When everything's over with, everybody's dead except for [Evans].

"He's hurt, but he's not going to make it. He's in so much pain, it has to end. I had to stop the pain. He was on the floor, he was hurting; he was crying," according to the statements. "So I shot him twice in the head to put him out of his pain."

Cooper said he ran out of the store and hurried to his car. He drove home, got a plastic bag, put the guns in and "got a tool from the window ledge in the kitchen." According to the statements, he buried the two guns on the grounds of St. Anne's Infant Home in Hyattsville, about two blocks from his home on Gallatin Street in the North Michigan Park section of Northeast.

At one point during his interrogation, county detectives asked Cooper whether his clothes were stained with blood after the shootings. His answer, according to the statements, was that he didn't know, "but I tasted the girl's blood in my mouth. So, I washed my clothes to be safe."

Detectives appeared to make a point during their questioning of Cooper to ask whether he was comfortable after being interviewed in the District for nine hours and then for almost three days in Prince George's.

One detective in the county asked: "How are you physically?"

Cooper answered: "Alert and rested. The best I've ever been treated."

If Cooper is convicted in the Starbucks killings, he could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Another hearing is scheduled for Aug. 17.

According to comments made during yesterday's hearing, Cooper is a suspect in a robbery of a health club 12 days before the slayings at Starbucks. A man armed with two handguns allegedly went into the fitness center during business hours, approached two employees and robbed them.

Cooper's initial arrest in March came in connection with the 1996 shooting of a Prince George's County police officer, Bruce Howard, in a Hyattsville park. Howard was wounded and recovered. D.C. police charged Cooper in the Starbucks case while he was in custody in Prince George's.

Goodrich's father and stepmother attended yesterday's hearing, but they declined to talk with reporters.

Mary Belle Annenberg, Mahoney's mother, sat behind Cooper's wife and father-in-law. It was the first time she learned of many of the details of the case. She described them as "painful."

"I'm restraining my anger and hate knowing the man is innocent until proven guilty," she said. "You can't unleash all of your hurt on him until he's found guilty."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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