With cheers and screams piercing the crowded Chicago courtroom, Lamar Cooper, 40, was found guilty of first-degree murder for the 2008 murder of veteran narcotics officer, Nathaniel Taylor (pictured left), 39, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Taylor was attempting to serve Cooper, a notorious drug dealer with an attempted murder conviction and two burglary convictions on his record, with a warrant to search his residence.
According the Tribune, Cooper was known as “Islam” for his devout Muslim faith by his neighbors. He was the head of a local neighborhood watch association, kept a meticulous lawn and his security fences and guard dogs were believed to be crime deterrents.
Prosecutors told a different story.
“[Cooper’s] heavily fortified home contained loaded guns hidden in hollowed-out books, police scanners, a bulletproof vest and a bag of cocaine in a basement freezer right next to a box of Popsicles. They also recovered keys to two bank safety-deposit boxes containing more than $260,000 in cash.
As spectators filed out of the courtroom, Officer Bert Munguia sat crying for a full fifteen minutes, grieving over the future that was not to be:
We were like brothers. We did everything together. He had a heart of gold, and he was a good policeman.
In his hands, Munguia clutched a photo of he and Taylor beaming at their graduation from police academy in 1994. The two had become close friends while battling crime in Chicago’s tough neighborhoods and Munguia’s children called Taylor “Uncle Nate.”
We thought we were going to retire together, grow old together, Munguia said.
On that fateful Sunday morning in September of 2008, Taylor and his partner, Officer Lemornet Miller, approached Cooper while he sat in his car to serve the warrant. Cooper opened fire, which was returned by Miller, who shot him nine times. Cooper survived the gun battle; Taylor did not. He was shot three times and was listed in critical condition before passing away from his injuries later that evening.
Cooper’s attorney, LaFarrell Moffett, did not deny his client’s criminal profession; in fact, he tried to spin Taylor’s murder into a case of self-defense.
As a drug dealer in the streets of Chicago, he knew his life was always one step away from being over because people wanted his money or his turf or both, Moffett said.
Assistant State’s Attorney James McKay wasn’t buying it, telling jurors that it was “in the job description of any successful drug dealer” to understand that some officers operate in plainclothes:
He didn’t want to go to jail, McKay said. It’s real simple.
Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez watched from the front row, reports the Tribune. Alvarez, visibly upset, shared her respect for Officer Taylor and her weariness with the assaults against police officers:
We had a hero here – whose life was taken from us way to soon. Unfortunately, I seem to be standing before you much too often talking about a verdict on a case where a Chicago police officer was murdered.
Over 100 police officers came to witness the proceedings and the judge ordered the doors to remain open so that they could hear every detail. As Officer Munguia sat with tears streaming down his face, his fellow officers came to show him their support. “We’ve got your back,” they said as they put their arms around his shoulders.
The mother of Taylor’s 9-year-old daughter, Angel Gogins, voiced her relief at the verdict as she exited the courtroom:
Just with my daughter, it has been a void – it’s been a total void – so right now, that void has been lifted… now I know Nate is resting in peace and justice has been served.