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Interview With Mail Truck Hijacking Witness

Aired January 31, 2003 - 14:35   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in with somebody who has an interesting relationship to all of this. The Reverend Marc Cooper is on the line with us, and he actually received a call from somebody inside the vehicle. Reverend Cooper, can you hear me OK?
REV. MARC COOPER, WITNESS: Yes. I didn't receive a call from someone in the vehicle. I am the one that gave the mail lady the cell phone. She happened to be riding during the chase, and I observed her coming my way. I rolled down my window and asked was she OK. She said, Please, can I have your cell phone?

O'BRIEN: OK. So back this up. Where were you, and how did you become aware that she was in some kind of harms way there?

COOPER: Well, earlier this morning -- or early going into the afternoon when I first got up this morning and went out to the corner of my street, the police presence was there, and I was the first one at the light. And she came passing by my avenue where I live, heading down 183rd Street. I observed her driving and the suspect in the back seat, and then I got on my cell phone and began to talk to different ones at my church office and asked them, did they see what was going on. They told me. I kind of followed around to see if it was going to end quickly. It didn't. I ended up on 441, and my secretary told me, they're over in your area right now on 441.

I said, Wait a minute, they're coming my way, they're coming my way. And the police cars were blocking off traffic as they would get ahead of the mail truck. She turned onto 191st street, where I was. I rolled down my window, being that she was moving slow because cars were in her way. I said, Are you OK?

She said, Please, can I have your cell phone? I said, Cell phone? She said, Please give me your cell phone.

I put my car in park at the light, and ran over to the truck, maybe about 10 feet away, and gave her my phone. At that time I did look in the truck. I did not see a firearm in his hand, that he was brandishing a firearm, but I did observe him. He was not saying anything. He wasn't saying, Hey, get that cell phone, or Hurry up, don't say nothing. He was not giving any orders. He seemed to be, at that particular time, kind of calm, and she seemed to be pretty calm.

O'BRIEN: Can you give us a description of him?

COOPER: Dark skin, bald, shaven, with a skully (ph) cap on his head. I couldn't tell how tall he is, but, I mean, based on his medium build, I would guess he was maybe about 5-10, 11, maybe into 6 feet. He appeared that he could be kind of tall.

O'BRIEN: Did you tell police all this, by the way?

COOPER: I have talked to more media than I have the police. I have tried to -- at the time when I gave the phone, I tried to discuss with the police and let them know at that time that I had given the cell phone right then, but they were busy trying to follow. They said, Get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the way. So I just moved out of the way. I made sure I moved out of the way. And then traffic was jammed up, so I couldn't get to an officer after that. It was maybe three minutes down the road, I pulled over and called my secretary and told her to call 911 and let them know that there was a cell phone in the truck that I had given them in the truck, and told them to give 911 the information.

O'BRIEN: Reverend Cooper, we are just told by John Zarrella, who is on the scene just outside the perimeter there that that delivery that we witnessed, we were trying to figure out what was in the bag, or whatever, by the robot was, in fact, another cell phone. So perhaps...

COOPER: That sounds correct, because I had been calling my cell phone over the past 20 minutes, and it appears that my phone now was going straight to the answering machine, which means that maybe my battery went dead shortly.

O'BRIEN: So your phone has served its purpose in all of this.

COOPER: I guess it has served its purpose up until now.

O'BRIEN: Now, I've got to ask you a personal question, Reverend Cooper, and this is one of those things that, perhaps, you fully consider in retrospect. Did you feel in harm's way, in any jeopardy through all of this?

COOPER: Not at all.

O'BRIEN: Really?

COOPER: Not at all. Not at all, because if I had had a chance to even get on the phone with them, I would have tried to speak to him the same way that the negotiators are, and I would have tried to offer him to maybe drive to the church to give himself up. You know, maybe to a place where he would feel safe. Because obviously, him driving around is just trying to prolong him being arrested, if there is no relation between the suspect and the person that is driving the car. He's just trying to prolong the time of something that he knows will occur. We pray if -- he does not do anything drastic. So we're praying that he doesn't do anything drastic, and that he would just soon give up.

O'BRIEN: Reverend Marc Cooper, thanks very much for spending a little time with us, and thank you for your role in all of this, in hopefully helping police reach a nice, peaceful conclusion to this.


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