COVINGTON, Ga. - Covington police Officer Matt Cooper is on the minds of many after authorities said a shoplifter at a Walmart shot him in the head on Monday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said three men were attempting to steal bandanas when officers responded to the scene.
Officials said Fleming shot Cooper before Fleming was later found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
There will be a prayer vigil at Officer Cooper's church, First Baptist Church of Covington, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, we'll have coverage of that on the Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11 and wsbtv.com.
Those who know and love Cooper describe the six-year veteran as a great officer, friend, son, husband and father.
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant spoke to Cooper's pastor at First Baptist Church of Covington on Tuesday. Senior Pastor Cody McNutt said his congregation immediately opened its doors to anyone wanting to pray for his recovery.
“We believe there is a God who is here, there is a God who hears us, and there is a God who can do something at a time like this,” he said.
McNutt said Cooper, and his family’s long history of service, has touched so many, and offered this message: “To the Cooper family, we as a community we love you, we support you and we are rallying behind you. Thousands upon thousands of people are praying for you, and we want to be here to meet whatever need we possibly can during this difficult time.”
Loved ones like Cooper's friend Kevin Carnes said they are hurting.
“It’s always difficult when a police officer is injured, but when you know who they are as a person, it hits you a little deeper,” Carnes said.
It hits close to home for people like Jim Stalvey because police sources said the 34-year-old was born and raised in Covington.
“It’s hard. It’s tough. It hits close to home like that,” Stalvey said.
Those close to him said his parents still live in town.
His fellow brothers and sisters of the force are also hurting. They rushed to the Atlanta Medical Center where he was airlifted to be by his side.
They were quickly joined by other officers from neighboring police agencies. Channel 2 Action News was there as they all tried to comfort each other with hugs.
“Everybody’s shaken. It’s very difficult,” Stalvey said.
Cooper won Outstanding Police Officer of the Year in 2014. He is an Army veteran who served on the front lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many believe people like him are the clear definition of what Labor Day is about.
“It’s very heavy on all of our hearts. We’re praying just like we’re going to ask everyone out who’s viewing this, please pray for our officer, please pray for his health and that he can pull through OK,” said Capt. Ken Malcom of the Covington Police Department.
The suspect's family released the following statement to Channel 2 Action News:
“We would like to send our prayers to Officer Matt Cooper, his wife and their family. We are saddened by what took place earlier today and are wishing him a speedy recovery.”
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