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17 and 18-year-old denied bail, charged with murder in Vietnam war veteran fatal carjacking

Flowers are laid down as relatives and friends of Keith Cooper hold a vigil for the 73-year-old at a strip mall on 53rd Street and Kimbark Avenue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood on July 16, 2021. Cooper died July 14 after he was hit in the head during an attempted carjacking at the strip mall. Cooper, a Vietnam veteran, loved jazz music, bowling and his Hyde Park community.

Alice Yin

Chicago Tribune

A 17-year-old Chicago boy was held without bail Saturday after being charged as an adult in the fatal beating of a Vietnam War veteran during a carjacking earlier this week in Hyde Park.

The teen, whom the Tribune is not naming because he is a minor, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery to a victim 60 years of age or older, according to court records. Judge John Lyke Jr. denied him bail during Saturday bond court after a prosecutor detailed the attack against Keith Cooper, 73, that was allegedly carried out by the 17-year-old and 18-year-old Frank Harris.

“His lawyer argues that he didn’t intend for this to happen, but the law really doesn’t care,” Lyke said. “The law says you place things in motion … all that adds up. He’s responsible, legally responsible.”

Harris, who appeared in bond court Friday after being charged with first-degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking in Cooper’s death, was also held without bail.

Cooper was leaving his vehicle and walking toward a store shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 1200 block of East 53rd Street when the 17-year-old snatched his keys from behind, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Allen said. The key fob fell to the ground, and Harris allegedly picked it up.

The 73-year-old cried for help and asked for his keys back, but Harris punched him in the back of his head, causing Cooper to clutch his head and step backward, Allen said. That’s when the 17-year-old allegedly pushed his torso as Cooper continued demanding his keys.

Ultimately, the two teenagers were unable to get inside the vehicle. Before they fled, the 17-year-old held his waistband to apparently indicate he was armed, but a witness yelled out that he had no weapon, Allen said.

Cooper collapsed and stopped breathing, and an off-duty paramedic gave him chest compressions. The 73-year-old died at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and his cause of death was pending as of Saturday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Afterward, the 17-year-old and Harris were spotted by Chicago police at a nearby synagogue courtyard and identified as the assailants by witnesses, Allen said.

The 17-year-old’s public defense attorney, James Kozlowski, argued the boy is not a “real and present threat” to others despite the allegation he shoved Cooper in the torso. He said it was inconclusive whether that push caused Cooper’s death.

“There was no indication that he intended to cause harm to this individual,” Kozlowski said.

Allen, meanwhile, noted the 17-year-old had a juvenile criminal history dating back at least four years, most recently with a case involving possession of a stolen motor vehicle in juvenile court, in which a judge ordered he be placed on electronic monitoring. But instead, a warrant was issued for him in December after he didn’t show up to court, Allen said.

Keith Cooper

©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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