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News (Media Awareness Project) - US IL: Slain Cop's Friend Moved To Tears As Drug Suspect Is
Title:US IL: Slain Cop's Friend Moved To Tears As Drug Suspect Is
Published On:2012-01-26
Source:Chicago Tribune (IL)
Fetched On:2012-02-01 06:00:51
SLAIN COP'S FRIEND MOVED TO TEARS AS DRUG SUSPECT IS CONVICTED OF
MURDER

The cop clutched a framed photograph and sat doubled over on the
courtroom bench, wracked with sobs after a reputed drug dealer had
been convicted Thursday in the 2008 murder of Chicago police Officer
Nathaniel Taylor.

After officers erupted in cheers and spectators began filing out of
the packed courtroom, Officer Bert Munguia remained, crying for 15
minutes.

At first, he did so alone, but soon he had other officers beside him.
They put their arms around his shoulders and told him to let it out.
"We got your back," one said.

The photo clutched by Munguia showed him, Taylor and several other
fresh-faced cadets on the day they graduated from the academy in 1994.
They were smiling, wearing blue department shirts, waiting to be given
the police stars to pin on them.

"We were like brothers," Munguia said later, still wiping tears from
his eyes. "We did everything together. He had a heart of gold, and he
was a good policeman."

A Cook County jury took less than two hours to find Lamar Cooper, 40,
guilty of first-degree murder for the slaying of Taylor, 39, a veteran
narcotics officer who was trying to serve a warrant to search Cooper's
fortified residence.

Taylor's partner, Officer Lemornet Miller, returned fire, shooting
Cooper nine times, but Cooper survived.

Cooper's attorneys did not deny that their client sold drugs or that
he shot Taylor but maintained he did not know he was a police officer
and fired in self-defense in what he thought was an armed robbery.
Taylor wore plainclothes but had his police star draped over his chest.

Cooper, who has a previous conviction for attempted murder of a police
officer, remained stone-faced as the verdict was announced. He faces a
mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Judge
Nicholas Ford could impose the sentence on Feb. 28.

"I'm just happy that Nate can finally rest in peace," Angel Gogins,
the mother of Taylor's 9-year-old daughter, said as she left the
Criminal Courts Building.

After the shooting in September 2008, neighbors said Cooper was known
as a devout Muslim often referred to as "Islam" who headed up the
South Chicago block's neighborhood watch association and kept his lawn
meticulous.

They thought the surveillance cameras mounted on his property, the
security fence and guard dogs were just safety measures in the
high-crime neighborhood.

But prosecutors called Cooper a big-time drug dealer whose 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.

Before closing arguments began earlier Thursday, extra benches were
brought into the courtroom to try to accommodate the overflow crowd.

While Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and State's
Attorney Anita Alvarez watched from the front row, the judge ordered
that the courtroom doors remain open so dozens more police officers
could hear the lawyers from the hallway.

Cooper's attorney LaFarrell Moffett argued that on the darkened street
that early Sunday morning, his client could not have seen Taylor's
police star and believed that the burly, plainclothes officer was a
robber creeping up on his car from behind.

"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.

But Assistant State's Attorney James McKay told jurors it was "in the
job description" of any successful drug dealer to know how police
operate, including that narcotics officers often wear street clothes.

"He didn't want to go to jail," McKay said. "It's real
simple."

As McKay ended his argument, a flat screen TV displayed a
department-issued photograph of Taylor grinning widely, his police cap
tipped forward on his brow. Friends said the photo captured the
ex-Marine and devoted father who was patient with everyone, taking the
time to hear out even the most hardened criminal.

Munguia said he'll never forget the morning his phone rang and he
learned of Taylor's shooting.

The friends had been sent to work in different districts in the city's
most dangerous neighborhoods. But they grew closer personally, sharing
tales from the street, laughing about the craziness of the job,
talking about their young families, Munguia said. His children knew
Taylor as "Uncle Nate."

"We thought we were going to retire together, grow old together,"
Munguia said.
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