Prosecutor: ‘Sadly a man who was simply trying to make an honest living lost his life’

Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office seeks to move 2 juveniles to adult court in Lyft driver’s death

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion Thursday to move two juveniles’ cases to adult court in the deadly shooting of a Lyft driver and the robbery of a second driver.

Two 15-year-old boys are facing charges in the death of 35-year-old Brandon Cooper on Jan. 26. The Dayton Daily News is not identifying the juveniles pending the transfer to adult court.

“We are here discussing juveniles, 15 years of age, committing violent, violent felonies,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said. “These two defendants devised a plan to call Lyft and Uber drivers and then rob them at gunpoint. In this case, right after robbing the first Lyft driver and taking her car and belongings, they immediately called another Lyft driver and when he didn’t immediately comply, shot him twice inside his car. And then when the victim ... was trying to get away in his car, they shot at him again when they were outside his car.”

Heck said Cooper was shot in his back.

“These two defendants crossed the threshold of what is a charge that is suited to remain in juvenile court and what without any doubt must be considered and handled in adult court,” Heck said.

Four teenagers were initially charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of aggravated murder. The other two juveniles have been released and their charges have been dropped, Heck said. The investigation into all four teens is ongoing and more charges could be filed.

Around 1 a.m. on Jan. 26, a woman reported she was robbed at gunpoint while four males were in her vehicle, Heck said. During the ride, they reportedly asked her to stop and two suspects pulled out guns and stole her vehicle and belongings.

Dayton police were then called to the 1000 block of Ferguson Avenue around 2 a.m. after a vehicle’s OnStar reported a possible crash. Officers found a man, later identified as Cooper, shot dead inside the vehicle.

“Sadly a man who was simply trying to make an honest living lost his life, leaving behind his grieving widow and mother,” Heck said.

The teens were arrested during a SWAT standoff that same day on Anna Street. Investigators found the woman’s phone outside a garage and her vehicle inside it, Heck said.

The prosecutor’s office also changed the charges against the two 15-year-olds. They now face murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, tampering with evidence and grand theft of a motor vehicle. And one teen also faces a count of discharge of a firearm on or near prohibited premises.

Both juveniles were on probation at the time of the shooting and have a history with the juvenile court, Heck. said. He said his office doesn’t take attempting to transfer two 15-year-olds to adult court lightly.

“Like in every other case, we look at the individuals, at the defendants and the facts and circumstances of the case. In this particular case, these two defendants robbed a female Lyft driver of her car and before the police had completed taking the report on that aggravated robbery, these two defendants had already planned and executed another aggravated robbery and homicide,” Heck said.

Also on Tuesday, the Dayton Unit of the NAACP and the family of Cooper questioned Lyft’s actions before and after the shooting. They said Lyft has not contacted Cooper’s family and they want to know how much Lyft knew about the first robbery before sending Cooper out to the same area.

“We don’t know because they have not reached out to the wife, we don’t know because they have not reached out to the mother,” NAACP Dayton Unit President Derrick Foward said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

A Lyft spokesperson released a statement saying safety is fundamental to the company. It also said, “Our hearts are with Brandon’s loved ones during this incredibly difficult time,” and said it would continue efforts to keep drivers safe.

Foward also said that there is too much violent crime in Dayton and noted that Black people make up a large portion of homicide victims.

“I call on the police to pull their full weight when it comes to criminal activities like this. If a police officer does something wrong, we will be on their heels. If they kill a Black man we are going to be on their heels and we’re going to hold them accountable. But these four homicides this year, just in January alone, these 23 homicides (last year) were not at the hands of law enforcement.”

“This trend of violence, senseless violence in this particular case, must stop.”