Family of Lyft driver killed in Dayton robbery: ‘He was everything’

Brittney and Brandon Cooper spent Tuesday at a movie theater in Huber Heights and playing video games at their home in Beavercreek before Brittney began falling asleep and Brandon prepared to go out and drive for the rideshare application, Lyft.

“Around midnight, I remember he came in and leaned over me while I was dozing off and gave me a kiss and before he walked out of the room I said ‘I love you,’ and he said ‘I love you, too,’ and closed the door,” Brittney Cooper said. “And that was it.”

Authorities say Brandon Cooper, 35, was summoned via the Lyft app around 2 a.m. Wednesday to Ferguson Avenue in Dayton, where four teenagers attempted to rob him of his vehicle and he ultimately was shot and killed.

“He had so many plans for the future,” Brittney Cooper, Brandon’s wife, said. “He had so many plans for our careers and us being together and growing old and having kids and moving and experiencing life. He wanted to travel more and spend more time together and everything just stopped because they decided they wanted a car and they didn’t want to work for it and they rather take someone’s life for a car.”

The teens are now charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated murder and are being held at the Montgomery County Juvenile Justice Center. They have entered denials to the charges and are due back in court in February.

Brittney Cooper said her husband was an amazing, caring person who always tried to help people. She said that Brandon Cooper left people feeling better than the way he found them and wanted to make a big impact on society.

“He was doing Uber and Lyft because he wanted to provide,” Brittney Cooper said. “He wanted to provide for our careers. He wasn’t just a rideshare driver, he was a game developer and that was the main reason for him (driving). To make sure he could eventually not do that anymore and could do what he actually wanted to do which was develop games that made a difference in the gaming industry. That wasn’t just about graphics, but was about experiences and opening people’s eyes to more than just one perspective.”

Driving for Lyft

Brandon Cooper had driven for rideshare applications for about 4 1/2 years because of the flexibility the occupation offered, Brittney Cooper said.

“He was working in factories and having a hard time making enough and having a good work environment so he left and started doing Uber and Lyft just to free himself from the behavior in workplaces,” she said. “It gave him the freedom to come home whenever he wanted to, to rest if he wanted to or work more if he wanted to.”

She said there were times that he had to kick people out of his car because of poor behavior and did turn off the app when he felt unsafe.

“A lot of times he (drove) at night because he knew a lot of other drivers wouldn’t be driving and he would get a lot of customers,” Brittney Cooper said. “He drove whenever he felt like driving. He would drive at night because he knew I would be sleeping and then he could come home and we eat breakfast together.”

Brandon Cooper’s mother, Michelle Cooper, was in the service and Brandon lived in places all over the world as she traveled. The family said he graduated from Jefferson Twp. High School as valedictorian.

Michelle Cooper said she wants answers from Lyft about why her son was sent to an area when a different Lyft driver was robbed of her vehicle about an hour before. Police say a woman driving for Lyft had her vehicle, phone and wallet stolen by the same group of teenagers they suspect are responsible for Cooper’s death.

An assistant prosecutor said during a court hearing on Thursday that other Uber and Lyft robberies were reported over the last several days and authorities are working to see which ones are and are not connected.

Lyft didn’t immediately respond to Dayton Daily News questions about the timeline for when they found out about the first robbery, which reportedly took place at around 1 a.m., and Cooper’s killing that took place around 2 a.m.

They did previously release a statement saying safety is a top priority.

“Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the actions that led to the events of this morning are reprehensible. Our hearts are with the driver’s loved ones during this incredibly difficult time, as well as with an additional driver who was impacted by this behavior. We’ve reached out to law enforcement to offer our assistance with their investigation, and we’ll continue our efforts to combat this senseless violence and help keep drivers safe.”

Prosecution of Juveniles

Brittney and Michelle Cooper both agree that the teens accused in Brandon’s killing should be tried as adults and if convicted, serve life sentences.

“I do not want them getting out at 18, 21 or whatever it is,” Michelle Cooper said. “They were old enough to take my son’s life and they are old enough to suffer the consequences.”

“I just want to know ‘why?’” Michelle Cooper said. “He had what he worked for, he worked to support him and his wife and you have taken everything from us and I mean everything.”

Brittney Cooper said the suspects can’t understand how important Brandon Cooper was.

“They have no idea how special he was. How amazing he was and how much he meant to every person he met,” she said. “Especially to me and his family. He wasn’t just some random person who had a car you wanted to take. He was everything.”

The community needs to know that Brandon Cooper wanted to inspire others to achieve their goals, she said.

“The same people who took his life are the same people he wanted to encourage to do better,” Brittney Cooper said. “He was always talking to young black men, young people in general, but specifically young black men to tell them that they could do better. That they didn’t have to do any crazy street stuff, that they could do whatever they wanted and have everything they wanted.”

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