David A. Cooper, Jr. – Sergeant First Class, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
September 07, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sergeant First Class David A. Cooper Jr., 36, of State College, Pennsylvania, died September 5, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, from a non-combat related injury. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

11 September 2007:

A Sugar Valley High School graduate and son of a Rauchtown couple has been killed while serving in Iraq.

Army Sergeant First Class David A. Cooper Jr., 36, originally from Loganton, Pennsylvania, died Wednesday in Baghdad from a non-combat related injury, according to the Defense Department.


He is the son of David and Wanda Cooper of 1623 Shaw Mountain Rd., Rauchtown, Pennsyvlania.

Details of the soldier’s death have not been released.

Funeral arrangements are being made at the Frederick B. Welker Funeral Home, 125 N. Main St., Jersey Shore.

Cooper was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington.

The Pennsylvania native had a soft spot for his adopted home state, his wife told the Tacoma News-Tribune Friday. And he got to enjoy it, having spent 10 straight years at Fort Lewis – an unusually long stretch in the Army.

“My husband loved Washington, and that’s kind of why he stayed,” said Michelle Cooper, who met him three years ago and married him in April 2005.

Cooper leaves behind twin 16-year-old sons, Gage and Drake, in central Pennsylvania, from his first marriage.

The Tacoma New-Tribune reported:

David Cooper Sr. recalled that his son and his grandsons would hole up in the basement “dungeon,” laughing and playing with their computers, video games and a wide-screen TV.

“They’d stay there all day long,” Cooper said. “They’d come up for a meal, then disappear down there.”

Michelle Cooper described her husband as “a true leader of men and was deeply respected by his men and his peers. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

She was preparing to see him in six weeks when he came home on leave.

“He was the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend, my confidante,” she said. “His death will leave a hole in many, many lives.”

Cooper had been part of the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment since January – the latest chapter in his decade of service at Fort Lewis.

He was assigned to the post in February 1997 and served with the 1st Battalion, 33rd Armor Regiment as a tank crewman; with the 2nd Battalion, 358th Armor Regiment as an observer-controller/trainer; and with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment as a platoon sergeant.

His widow said he was happy when the cavalry regiment converted to a Stryker brigade, with its signature 20-ton armored troop carriers.

“He said that was the closest he could get to being back on a tank,” Michelle Cooper said.

According to unit records, Cooper first joined the military in 1988.

The Sugar Valley High School graduate reported for his current term of active Army service in 1994 and spent time in Korea, at Fort Drum, New York, and at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before coming to Fort Lewis.

He is the 174th soldier from the post to die in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in operations following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Cooper’s only sibling, Germany-based Army Staff Sergeant Mike Cooper, will escort the body of his older brother to Arlington National Cemetery for a September 17, 2007, burial.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in Seattle, Wash. reported:

Cooper was decorated numerous times for his efforts and conduct, first joined the military in June 1988 and reported for his current term of active duty in 1994, according to an article in Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in Seattle, Washington. His jobs over his career included armor crewman and platoon sergeant.

He was deployed with the 4,000-member 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Iraq in April for a 15-month tour of duty, the newspaper reported.

Fort Lewis’ 3rd Stryker Brigade, meanwhile, is ending its 15-month deployment in Iraq this month, as units begin to return home incrementally. An advance guard of 140 soldiers returned Tuesday.

Cooper is the first soldier connected to Washington’s military bases or hometowns to die in Iraq this month. Ninety-one members of the armed forces from Washington have been killed in Iraq this year, the deadliest year of the war for local troops.

Cooper was interviewed one year ago by the Fort Lewis Guardian newspaper when the 4th Stryker Brigade, while preparing for deployment to Iraq, received the newest Stryker light armored vehicles, complete with a new 105 mm cannon “mobile gun system.”

The new system was designed to up the Strykers’ firepower, marrying the infantry to armor-unit-style weaponry, and allowing the Stryker vehicles to pack the same wallop as an M-1 Abrams tank, though without the heavy armor.

Cooper, who was selected for his savvy and professionalism to help demonstrate and talk about the system with the media, predicted the new Strykers in Iraq would be “everybody’s friend.”

“You can literally shoot smiley faces with it at 900 meters,” Cooper told the post’s newspaper. “Even minus the big gun we can give the infantry a lot of support.”

5 December 2007:

FORT LEWIS, Washington — A Fort Lewis soldier has been charged with murder in the death of his platoon sergeant in Iraq, though military investigators do not think the killing was intentional, the Army said Tuesday.

Corporal Timothy Ayers, 21, is accused of shooting Sergeant First Class David A. Cooper Jr., who died September 5, 2007, in Baghdad. Cooper was 36.

Investigators believe Ayers discharged a pistol in “wanton disregard for human life” at Forward Operating Base Falcon.

A Fort Lewis spokesman said Army prosecutors do not believe the killing was premeditated or that Ayers intended to kill Cooper.

A pretrial hearing to determine whether there's evidence to support a court-martial is scheduled for February 5, 2007, at Fort Lewis. It was not immediately clear if Ayers had an attorney.

When Cooper died, the Defense Department said only that he suffered a non-combat injury that was under investigation. The charge was filed November 8, 2007. Fort Lewis released the information after The News Tribune of Tacoma inquired about the investigation.

Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek declined Tuesday to provide other details.

Cooper and Ayers were part of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division that deployed to Iraq last April on a tour that is to last until this summer.

Piek said Ayers returned in October and has been assigned to his unit's rear detachment. He is not in custody.

Ayers, from Long Beach, California, joined the Army in 2004. He was on his first deployment.

Cooper, a native of State College, Pennsylvania, served four years in the Army Reserve and then 15 in active duty. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Soldier gets jail term for killing sergeant from State College, asks forgiveness

Michael Gilbert-
Courtesy of the Tacoma News Tribune

FORT LEWIS, Washington — It wasn’t the first time he’d pointed his pistol at a fellow soldier, Corporal Timothy Ayers told the judge Wednesday at his court-martial.

But this time, he said, he pulled the trigger, and this time the gun was loaded.

The Fort Lewis soldier was sentenced to 28 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Sergeant First Classs David Cooper, a former State College resident whose twin sons live in Port Matilda.

Army prosecutors originally charged Ayers, 21, with murder in the killing his platoon sergeant on September 5,  2007, at Forward Operating Base Falcon.

But they accepted the soldier’s guilty plea to the reduced charge in exchange for his agreement to serve whichever was less: six years in prison, or a term that a judge would hand down after a sentencing hearing.

The maximum penalty for the crime under military law is 10 years in prison.

Despite a hearing at Fort Lewis that stretched from 10 a.m.to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ayers could offer little explanation when the judge asked why he pointed his loaded pistol at Cooper – a man he said he looked up to as a mentor and second father – and fired. They were just inches from each other in their tent.

“I don’t know,” Ayers replied when the judge, Colonel John Head, asked why he fired. “I guess I felt so comfortable pulling the trigger when it wasn’t loaded before, that I just did it.”

Later he made a tearful apology to Cooper’s family and friends.

“They surely do not deserve this heartbreak and loss … that I have brought upon them,” he said. “… I can only hope that those who loved Sgt. 1st Class Cooper will find a small amount of forgiveness, forgiveness that I cannot have for myself.”

Cooper, 36, who grew up in Loganton in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, was a 16-year Army veteran. In Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, he was responsible for the performance and well-being of a dozen or so men in his Stryker Mobile Gun System platoon.

In deciding the sentence, Head may have taken into consideration Ayers’ claim that Cooper also carried his pistol loaded on the base, in violation of regulations, and Ayers’ belief that he was acting under Cooper’s guidance that it was acceptable conduct.

Army prosecutors did not dispute the claim.

Fellow soldiers and family members said Cooper was a beloved friend and leader. Before deploying to Iraq in April 2007 with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, he’d been assigned to train soldiers on the new Stryker gun truck – the eight-wheeled armored vehicle with a 105 mm cannon.

“He was in the top 10 percent of the armor community, easily,” said his friend, Staff Sergeant David Heard, testifying by telephone from Baqouba, Iraq. “He loved being in the hatch. He loved tanking.”

“He made you laugh, could turn anything around and made you see the bright side,” Heard said. “It’s not here now. It’s been a long year for us. We really could use his laughter now.”

Cooper’s parents, David and Wanda Cooper of Jersey Shore, Pennsyvania, said their son wanted to be a soldier from the time he was a little boy. He enlisted while in high school, and spent 10 years stationed at Fort Lewis. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

Also testifying Wednesday were his wife, Michelle, of Puyallup; his brother, Sergeant First Class Michael Cooper, stationed in Germany; his ex-wife Tracy Cornwell; and their 16-year-old twin sons, Drake and Gage, who are students at Bald Eagle High School.

The boys said that although their parents divorced when they were young, their father maintained a strong relationship with them by phone and e-mail and in occasional visits back home to Pennsylvania.

They would talk like best friends all the time, about sports, movies, video games, girls, the future.

Like other family members who testified Wednesday, they said they couldn’t believe the news that their father had been killed – that it had to be some kind of mistake.

“It never crossed my mind that he wasn’t coming back,” Gage Cooper said. “He was one of my best friends, and now I don’t have that anymore.”

The family appeared to be bitterly disappointed and dismayed at the announcement of the sentence, and left the courtroom afterward to speak with Army prosecutors.

Cooper’s family said Ayers’ negligence had cost them dearly.

“I won’t be able to live knowing there’s no justice,” Wanda Cooper said. “It was no excuse.”

Ayers told the judge that the men in his platoon had spent the afternoon cleaning their weapons and were getting ready to go to dinner when Cooper walked up to him in their tent.

He said he pointed his 9 mm pistol at Cooper’s chest, from about an inch away. Cooper didn’t react. Ayers moved the weapon toward Cooper’s shoulder, and while looking at other soldiers across the tent, pulled the trigger.

“I wrote earlier and requested you to change the write up about my son.  I requested that you take out the ending statement about the man that killed my son.  I don't want that to be in my sons posting.  It is a dishonor to his military service that you try to make people feel sorry for the man that stuck a gun in my son's shoulder and pulled the trigger and killed him.  He or his family's statements have no right to be in my sons' Arlington write up.  He got off with a light enough sentence of 28 months for murder, and then to go onto being with his family.  My son never got that chance after he pulled the trigger and sentenced him to death.  My son will never get to see his twin sons grow and become strong young men.  He will never see them go onto military careers, either through West Point or a ROTC program at a college.  He will never get to guide them through their lives and be a part of their lives.

Thanks to this man and his stupidity so much has been lost for our family.  Ayer's family has no right to comment on how hard it is on their son.  He will never be forgiven for what he did.  And if I had my choice he would have spent a lifetime in jail for what he did.

Wanda L. Cooper, Proud Mother of  SFC David A. Cooper, Jr., Killed September 5, 2007.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/26/1971
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/05/2007

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