There's a good chance Stan Cooper wore the first smile you saw when entering the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse, friends said.
The 72-year-old security officer was also the first line of defense and likely the first to encounter a shotgun-wielding man who entered the courthouse Monday morning.
Cooper, a retired Metropolitan Police Department officer who worked as a security officer for the private firm AKAL Security, was standing guard at the metal detector inside the front door when he encountered the gunman, identified as Johnny Lee Wicks.
Officials said Cooper was shot in the chest by Wicks, who died in the ensuing shootout.
Cooper was pronounced dead at University Medical Center a short while later. A procession of more than a dozen police motorcycles and other vehicles escorted Cooper's body from the hospital to the coroner's office. About 20 law enforcement officers from various agencies standing outside the hospital saluted as the procession drove by.
A tall, thin man with a full head of white hair that gave him the look of a film actor, Cooper was a 26-year veteran of the police department before retiring in December 1991.
Friends recalled the Sandy Valley resident as a warm, gentle man who wore a smile well and loved his family and horses.
"He was one of the nicest guys you could meet," said attorney John Funk, who knew Cooper personally and would often see him at the federal courthouse.
Cooper "lived for his family," especially spending weekends with his grandchildren, taking them horseback riding and four-wheeling. "He was incredibly close to them," Funk said.
Besides his family, Cooper's passion was horses. He owned at least four, said friend Ted Kosters.
Kosters, who choked backed tears during a telephone interview, said the two would often enjoy a morning ride, with Cooper atop his palomino Starbuck.
Kosters, also a retired police officer, said the two would joke about their times in law enforcement. "We would laugh about all the dumb stuff we did as cops, like, 'How'd we get into this mess,'" Kosters said.
During the course of his career with the police department, Cooper worked in patrol, internal affairs, and in the intelligence and traffic units.
"He was a good troop," said Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn, who was his lieutenant when Cooper was in the traffic unit.
Cooper was a sergeant who spent most of his time in the field with the officers under his command, Flynn said.
"He was super polite," Flynn said. "I can't recall receiving a complaint on him. And you know motor officers don't always meet people under the best of circumstances."
Bert Koch, who worked with Cooper at both the police department and in security at the courthouse, said he was in shock.
"He was the last guy I would expect this to happen to," said Koch. "He was a very gentle man. Thoughtful and quiet."
Cooper had a way of communicating with people, including flashing his Hollywood smile, that would calm them down, Koch said.
"In the good cop, bad cop scenario, he was the good cop," Koch said.
When contacted Monday afternoon, a man who said he was Cooper's son said the family was not immediately ready to speak about the tragedy.
Solemn-faced friends arrived Monday afternoon at the son's home, a two-story beige stucco house on Hollywood Boulevard that friends say Stan Cooper built, but declined interviews when they returned to their cars.
Review Journal staff writers Kristi Jourdan, Paul Harasim and Keith Rogers contributed to this report. Contact Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.