COVINGTON, Ga. - The Covington Police Department said officer Matt Cooper is still listed in serious condition a day after he was shot while attempting to arrest a shoplifter near a Walmart.
The department posted on Facebook that the 34-year-old's condition didn't change overnight but he was expected to see a vascular surgeon Tuesday to prepare for a procedure to remove the bullet lodged in his Carotid artery.
"His vital signs are strong. Matt Cooper is strong! He is a fighter! Please continue to pray for the Cooper family," the department posted.
Channel 2's Rikki Klaus learned the bullet hit Cooper right between the eyes, and the bullet traveled to his Carotid artery then Cooper's blood clotted. A police spokesperson says the trajectory of the bullet likely saved Cooper's life.
Loved ones who gathered at a vigil in support of Cooper on Tuesday night said the situation is unthinkable.
“It’s not something that you think is ever going to happen to your husband. You think about that as a police wife and what she must be going through,” said family friend Felicia Penrose.
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant sat down one-on-one with Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton who said the department is holding up as best as they can, praying and pulling for officer Cooper.
“It’s a tough time for the family right now. They’re obviously worried. I think they’re very hopeful, because Matt, you know, seems to be stable at the time with serious injuries. I’m sure they’re pretty tired. This is a very emotional time, very physical rollercoaster to go through," she said.
Cotton said Cooper has been responsive and was able to tell his wife he loved her.
Cooper is a father of two, an Army veteran and has worked for the department for six years.
Cotton praised the officers who were on scene during the shooting saying they were vital to saving Cooper's life.
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At one point, the chief got emotional, when he said the public loves and cares for law enforcement.
“We’re not always treated fairly. But a man got up to go to work that day. Only thing he did was go to work, just like each and everyone of y’all do. Get up and go to work. And he was seriously, critically injured for doing his job.”
Authorities said late Tuesday afternoon that Cooper had been moved to Grady Memorial Hospital.
Investigators said they were called out to the store along Industrial Boulevard just before 12:30 p.m. Monday for a shoplifting call. The GBI says three men were attempting to steal bandanas.
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Officers arrested two suspects, both whom are juveniles, but a third, identified as Aaron Fleming, 21, ran.
Cooper and a police Sgt. chased him across the street and behind another shopping center. The Sgt. said he came around the corner and saw Fleming shoot Cooper. Fleming was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in nearby woods, the GBI said.
A helicopter flew Cooper to Atlanta Medical Center.
"He was seriously critically injured for doing his job," Cotton said as he choked back tears. "We don't do this for the paycheck. We do it because we love it."
The department said anyone would like to donate to the family, you can do so through the Covington Police Who Care (501C3).
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