Man deemed high-risk offender arrested for trying to buy booze

Philip Croucher, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - A man deemed a high-risk offender after killing two people while driving drunk has been arrested for trying to buy booze from a Halifax liquor store.

Michael Cooper makes and appearance at Halifax Provincial Court on Tuesday.

Michael Gerard Cooper, 55, was taken into custody by police at 6990 Mumford Rd. near a Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet Tuesday around 11 a.m.

Cooper, who appeared in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday afternoon and was remanded to the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Burnside for a fitness assessment, is facing two charges of breaching conditions.

Mike Maloney, spokesperson for the NSLC, said a staff member noticed Cooper approaching the store, and then called police when he came inside.

Maloney said Cooper didn’t try to buy anything, but was in there for about five minutes.

“He was chatting on the phone, and was quite noisy about it,” said Maloney.

Cooper’s release conditions included a ban on buying or consuming alcohol and driving. Maloney said he was arrested by police at a nearby bus stop after leaving the store.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the level of commitment our staff showed in this case,” Maloney said.

Halifax Regional Police spokesman Const. Pierre Bourdages said the person who called police handled the situation very well.

“He did the right thing,” Bourdages said. “Instead of approaching the individual they called police and we were able to arrest him.”

Bourdages said he doesn’t know what Cooper’s motivation was for allegedly entering the liquor store, but it doesn’t really matter as they were against his conditions.

“The fact he entered a liquor store, right there, is a breach of his conditions,” said Bourdages, who said the force was doing spot checks on Cooper to make sure he was abiding by the rules of him being out of jail.

Cooper, 55, was released from a federal penitentiary in New Brunswick last Tuesday after serving a full seven-year sentence for killing Angela Smits, 19, and her boyfriend Michael MacLean, 20, in May 2004 following an accident in Cape Breton.

After Michael Gerard Cooper’s conviction in 2007, the Parole Board of Canada said he told them he would likely continue drinking and driving, which prompted the board to deny him an early release.

Cooper has since elected to live in HRM, prompting police in Halifax last week to issue a notification to residents under the high-risk offender information protocol – typically reserved for violent criminals or sex offenders.

Gerry Smits, father of Angela Smits, said he wasn’t surprised when he was notified Tuesday by RCMP that Cooper had attempted to purchase alcohol.

He and his wife Patricia had requested that the NSLC, Alcohol and Gaming Division and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review take steps to prevent Cooper from purchasing alcohol. The NSLC agreed to distribute his photo to its stores, something for which Smits said he was grateful.

“I gave him 48 hours, so he went over that,” he said. “I thanked them for it because if it wasn’t for that, he probably would have walked in there and walked back out and nobody would have known the difference. It was a good thing on their part and they very likely saved someone’s life.”

Smits added he also believes the arrest shows that he and his wife were justified in taking the steps that they did to try to prevent Cooper from being able to purchase alcohol.

“We knew from what we heard and from what he said that he was going to do it, and he came out and did it,” Smits said. “A lot of people thought we were just going out on a limb but we weren’t.”

During Cooper’s court appearance on Tuesday, defence lawyer John Black told the judge his client suffers from “fairly significant deficits as a result of a brain injury” he received in the 2004 collision.

Judge Barbara Beach agreed to send Cooper to the East Coast Forensic Hospital for an assessment to determine if his injury has left him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions or of knowing that they were wrong.

- with files from The Cape Breton Post and The Canadian Press.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, East Coast Forensic Hospital, Parole Board of Canada RCMP Alcohol and Gaming Division

Geographic location: Halifax, Burnside, Cape Breton New Brunswick HRM

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  • Tina McLeod
    January 29, 2014 - 13:56

    Good for Mr & Mrs Smits for pressing the issue and having his photo posted in liquor stores, maybe this should be happening more...it might keep more people from dying at the hands of a drunk driver. Of course he was going to purchase alcohol...what was he doing there at 11am in the morning otherwise? If he was looking to get caught, great - throw him back in prison & throw away the key. How many drunk driving victims are killed by repeat offenders? What does this tell us? If this man was in prison for 7 years and within a week after he was released he was in a liquor store?? Wow.....I'm afraid there is very little hope for any rehabilitation for him. As far as suffering from significant brain injury - boo hoo for him....it was from an accident he caused that killed two completely innocent people. My thoughts go out to the Smits and MacLean families who live this every day.

  • Doup P.
    January 29, 2014 - 10:24

    The Headline is off. The article stated he did not try to buy anything. Looks like he wanted to be taken back by purposely breaching his conditions of release.