A 66-year-old black man was the victim of a seemingly random hate crime Sunday evening. His alleged attacker: a white man with a shaved head and the words “white power” tattooed on his leg.
Jason Edward Cooper, 32, is accused of shouting racial slurs at his neighbor Norris Cooley, punching him in the face and pointing a gun at his head before firing rounds into Cooley’s home where several people sat inside.
Cooper, along with 36-year-old Donald Lucas Prichard, were arrested late Monday night. They had first court appearances Tuesday afternoon, where they were charged with first-degree assault and malicious harassment.
The night of terror, detailed in court documents, started with a normal Sunday that turned violent as Cooley was berated and violently attacked for no reason other than the color of his skin, according to Spokane police.
While he was cleaning out his garage at around 11 p.m., two males came out of a home directly to the north of Cooley’s, and immediately started shouting racial epithets.
“(N-word) you don’t deserve to be breathing white man’s air,” one man told Cooley, according to officer Nicholas Geren of the Spokane Police Department, who wrote an affidavit of facts following Cooper’s arrest. A friend of Cooley’s who was working on his car in the driveway told police he heard Cooper say, “smile (N-word) so I can see you. I might shoot you in the dark.”
Phil Tyler, former president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, released a statement Tuesday night urging the community to push back against such crimes.
“Sadly, we have been here before. These types of acts are meant to threaten and place fear in the minds of our citizens, our neighbors, our friends,” Tyler said. “We cannot and will not tolerate these acts.”
He wrote that such brazen hate crimes are a growing problem in America and called upon Spokane residents to repudiate it. Tyler thanked Spokane Police for the quick investigative work and arrest.
“This shows they too are invested and have a desire to remove that which is the worst from our community,” Tyler said. “We stand together, steadfast and resolute, in the determination not to allow hate to resonate, not to allow hate a place, and to call it out when we find it.”
A neighbor of Cooley’s told police she could hear yelling coming from across the street, including “you’re just an (N-word)” and “heil the KKK, white power.” She told officers Cooley didn’t yell back.
Elizabeth Fisher, who shares the home at 2422 N. Wiscomb Avenue in north Spokane with Cooley, said Cooper came up to Cooley completely unprovoked, calling him a “rapist, child molester, and (N-word).”
“The guy just came over here, saying that black lives don’t matter, only white lives matter,” Fisher, who is white, said Tuesday afternoon standing near the bullet holes peppering her front porch. “We were so shocked it happened.”
Cooley apparently told the men to leave him alone and entered his garage.
Cooper and Prichard, identified as “Luke” in court documents, followed him, where one of the men punched Cooley in the left side of the face and pulled a “snub-nosed revolver” from his waistband, Cooley told police. The man pointed the gun at Cooley and threatened to kill him. As they left, the friend who was working on his car, said Cooper told him “You’re gonna be next.”
About 20 minutes later, while back inside his home, is when Cooley told police he heard the gunfire. Fisher, who was also inside when the shots rang out, said it took them a few seconds to register what was happening.
“We had to get on the ground,” she said, her daughter Allye Weaver in the back room.
Her front porch was riddled with bullets.
“I was inches from being shot. That’s for sure,” Fisher said.
The friend who was in the driveway moved his vehicle to the intersection of Carlisle Avenue and Wiscomb to make use of the street lamps. He told police he heard several shots and saw two men standing in the street near a white Isuzu Rodeo. He said he could see the muzzle flash pointed towards Cooley’s home, and when he yelled at the men to stop, he saw the gun turn toward him as if he was being shot at.
He said he dove into the front seat of his vehicle for protection, then saw the Rodeo drive away.
Cooper’s girlfriend, in an interview with detectives, described her boyfriend as a “supremacist” who had “white power” tattooed on his leg. Her daughter told police that Cooper is a “racist” and has a “dislike for colored people.” She told officers she believes he was “skinhead.”
The daughter told officers that after allegedly assaulting Cooley, Cooper came in with Prichard and was bragging to her mom about knocking “out the (N-word).” She said he seemed proud of himself.
In a news release sent Tuesday afternoon, police said they take malicious harassment “very seriously.”
“Detectives worked for nearly 24 hours straight to bring this case to a resolution,” officers wrote. “Spokane Police are aware of the negative impact incidents like this can have on our diverse community … All of our community members deserve to feel safe.”
Since 2007, Cooper has been charged with 13 felonies, with 12 convictions, including burglary and assault.
Fisher, who said she’s lived in the home for five years alongside Cooley, said this is the first time she’s seen Cooley be the victim of a hate crime in her neighborhood, let alone called a racist slur.
“We’re alright,” she said. “We’re still a little jumpy about certain sounds, but we’re alright.”