Joplin city leaders on Wednesday urged the community to join them in honoring the sacrifices of fallen police Cpl. Ben Cooper and two fellow officers seriously injured in Tuesday's police shooting.
"This is a tragic day for the Joplin Police Department and the city of Joplin as a whole," police Chief Sloan Rowland said at a news conference in City Hall one day after the three officers were shot responding to a disturbance at the Northpark Crossing shopping center.
The names of the officers involved and the suspect who shot them had been withheld Tuesday pending notification of families. The police chief identified both the officer and the suspect who were killed at the news conference.
"The fallen officer is Cpl. Benjamin Cooper, who passed away yesterday from injuries received during the incident," Rowland said. "He leaves behind a wife and two daughters."
Cpl. Ben Cooper, a graduate of Missouri Southern State University's Law Enforcement Academy, was a veteran officer with the Joplin Police Department, having first joined the force in 2003. He subsequently took a job working for a sheriff's department in Colorado but returned to Joplin in 2013 and was promoted to corporal in 2016.
Tuesday's shooting was not the first time he'd had to put his life on the line in the course of his duties.
In 2008, he and Officer Freddie Alaniz were forced to shoot a former Jasper County sheriff's lieutenant during a domestic disturbance call. The off-duty lieutenant was in his backyard with a gun to his head when Cooper and Alaniz made contact with him.
Both officers fired their weapons at the disturbed lieutenant when he pointed his gun at Cooper. The suicidal lieutenant, who was struck in the abdomen by one of the rounds, survived the shooting and later pleaded guilty to a felony weapon offense.
Rowland identified the suspect who killed Cooper and wounded the other two officers before being shot and killed himself as Anthony R. Felix, 40, of Joplin, a man who at the time of his arrest in January 2021 for driving violations and possession of drug paraphernalia was listed on court records as homeless.
Rowland said officers called to the shopping center regarding a disturbance at 1:32 p.m. Tuesday identified Felix as being the subject involved and made contact with him.
"Officers attempted to take the subject into custody," Rowland said. "He shot the officers and fled the scene in a stolen patrol car."
The police chief then indicated that the number of officers shot during the incident came quite close to being four.
"Officers attempted to stop the fleeing suspect, who fired shots from the stolen patrol car at the pursuing officers, striking one of the patrol vehicles and narrowly missing one of the officers in the car," Rowland said.
He said the suspect wrecked the patrol car a few minutes later and fled on foot to the vicinity of Ninth Street and Connecticut Avenue where he shot a third officer before being shot and killed by an officer.
Rowland declined to field questions about the incident at the news conference, citing the Missouri State Highway Patrol's ongoing investigation of the incident.
He said the names of the other two officers have not been released as yet "as we are still attempting to make contact with (their) families."
The Globe learned after the news conference that Felix was carrying a gun that he used to shoot the officers and also stole a second gun from one of the injured officers before driving off.
"This was a violent and unwarranted attack on our officers and is indicative of the rise in violence against law enforcement officers we are witnessing nationwide, and it has to stop," Rowland said.
He thanked the community for "the overwhelming support" the Joplin Police Department has been receiving residents as well as other agencies.
"We are a large family at the Joplin Police Department — a very large, extended family — and today we are hurting," the police chief said in his closing remarks.
Mayor Ryan Stanley announced at the conference that he has has ordered city flags to be lowered to half-staff until the fallen are interred or recuperate and called on the community to "lean into" the Joplin Police Department and their families and surround them with "a circle of love, support and prayer."
"Today, we lift up Cpl. Ben Cooper, his wife and children," Stanley said. "Cooper made the greatest sacrifice for the city yesterday."
He said the community's support must pour out to the other two injured officers and their families as well, and to all the other officers who responded to Tuesday's threat knowing that their fellow officers had been stricken, including the officer who both "justifiably" and "heroically" was forced to take the suspect's life in the end. That officer was identified late Wednesday as Capt. William Davis.
"Over the coming weeks, there will be many opportunities for us to show that support," Stanley said. "Please fully engage in the process of thanking these families for their sacrifices."
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