Veteran Keith Cooper loved his grandchildren, science fiction, jazz music — and was just a week away from his 74th birthday when horror struck him and his family, WLS-TV reported.
Cooper — who survived two tours of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines — was outside his favorite grocery store in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when police said two strangers approached him, the station reported.
The pair — an adult and a juvenile, a source told WLS — demanded Cooper’s car and then repeatedly punched him in the head. Cooper’s daughter told the station that the beating caused a heart attack that killed him.
The station said witnesses who helped fight off the two attackers also helped police track them down. A source noted to WLS that two people are now in police custody.
But Cooper’s family is now left trying to make sense out of the senseless tragedy, the station said.
“I just don’t understand it,” Curtis Carlton, Cooper’s son-in-law, told WLS. “Broad daylight, he comes here all the time, we all shop here. They tried to steal his car. They didn’t even get his car, and they took his life.”
Keinika Carlton, Cooper’s daughter, told the station that there was an upcoming trip with her dad in the works. Now she has other plans.
“He had specific instructions for his final arrangements, so I just need to carry those out,” she told WLS.
‘A bonus dad’
Curtis Carlton told the station that Cooper “was like a bonus dad. He was my father-in-law, but he was like a dad. He was the best. Keith was the best.”
Keinika Carlton said her dad “loved his family” and was “just all-around fun person to be around.”
Image source: WLS-TV video screenshot
Fox News said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office did not immediately return its request for comment on Cooper’s death.
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Carjackings in Chicago have increased in recent years, with 2020 seeing a 135% spike compared to 2019, from 603 carjackings in 2019 to 1,416 in 2020.
The crime has spilled over into 2021, with one particularly violent 24-hour span last month seeing at least five carjackings. Chicago police Supt. David Brown responded to the recent increase by adding 40 officers and four sergeants to a carjacking task force in January.