Service celebrates life

Stan Cooper was many things: doughnut lover, harmonica player, dad, horseback rider, laid-back bluegrass fan, lifelong cop.

These things came up Monday at a memorial service for Cooper, 72, who was killed Jan. 4 when a man with a grudge against the government stormed the federal courthouse where Cooper worked and shot him dead.

Cooper, to put it simply, loved being a cop.

"That’s all he really wanted to do," said John Clark, director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Cooper had been a police officer in Tulsa, Okla., and Las Vegas for 30 years before joining the Marshals Service in 1994 as a security officer. He was on duty Jan. 4 at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse when Johnny Lee Wicks shot and killed him. Wicks, who had long fought with the Social Security Administration, was soon killed in a shootout with authorities.

The shooting did not come up much during Monday’s services at Central Christian Church, where the auditorium with seating for 3,000 looked about two-thirds full.

Speakers included Clark, Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Ensign, R-Nev., Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie and Michael Gerrity, Cooper’s fellow security officer and good friend.

"Stan Cooper was the last person in the world to give someone a hard time," Gerrity told those in attendance.

He described Cooper as many others have since his death: the kind of man who gave strangers a smile, who enjoyed what he did for a living, who made everybody laugh with his stories.

He said Cooper was such a big fan of doughnuts that he’d sometimes confiscate a few from the break room and stash them in his locker, where they might stay for days before he’d eat them.

"Stan’s locker was a mini 7-Eleven," Gerrity said.

He said Cooper loved crosswords. He loved them so much, he’d eagerly anticipate snatching up the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the courthouse every morning. He would secretly clip out the coupons and the crosswords, then neatly fold the paper back as it was.

That’s when Gerrity unfolded a newspaper with large squares missing.

"If you read the paper after Stan, you would get this," he said.

Cooper moved to Nevada in 1964 and joined the Las Vegas police force. Over the years, he served in the patrol division, internal affairs, criminal intelligence and, said Gillespie, the traffic division, which was his favorite.

He said Cooper loved to ride his motorcycle in any weather.

Gillespie called Cooper’s commitment to public service "epic."

"He was truly a good man," Gillespie said. "He always had a smile on his face."

Gerrity said Cooper once caught one of his sons speeding through an intersection. When Cooper returned home, he yelled at his son for being irresponsible but did not give him a ticket

Tom Haney said he was on the force with Cooper in the early 1970s. The two would patrol together and got to be good friends.

Haney, who retired from the force in 1994, called Cooper "the greatest guy in the world."

He said words were not adequate to describe the man. He saw good in everybody. He was never cynical, despite the job. He adored his family.

Reid called Cooper a hero, as others did, and said it was sad and "maddening" that it took a tragedy such as Cooper’s death to bring notice to the man.

Ensign noted that his and Reid’s offices are in the courthouse where Cooper worked. Part of Cooper’s job, he said, was protecting the senators.

"We owe, literally, our very lives" to Cooper, he said.

He also spoke of Cooper’s faith as a Christian. He said Cooper’s friends and family could take comfort in that.

"We know where he is and where he will spend eternity," Ensign said.

Cooper’s pastor, Chris Pruitt of Northside Church of Christ, said Cooper loved playing croquet with his friends and family. Sometimes, Cooper would knock their balls across the yard and pump his fist in the air while screaming, "Yes!"

But it wasn’t to be mean-spirited, Pruitt said. It was to teach his children they had to earn victories in life.

He also said Cooper cleaned a local drive-in movie theater picking up trash and keeping the grounds looking nice while working as a police officer.

Between Cooper’s retirement as a police officer and his job as a courthouse officer, the pastor said, he worked as an appliance repair man. If families couldn’t afford his handyman services, Cooper bought the parts himself and refused to charge for his work.

Review-Journal reporter Kristi Jourdan contributed to this story. Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

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