November 22, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer
A Hartford woman initially believed to be the random victim of a shooting and carjacking last week may have been deliberately targeted because of her relationship with a man involved in the local drug trade, police sources said Monday.
Developments in the investigation into last Thursday's carjacking have led police to suspect that the attack on Jewel Cooper, who was critically wounded in the incident, was intentional, sources said.
Police suspicions were heightened over the weekend when a search of Cooper's SUV uncovered at least one gun and $10,000 to $12,000 in cash hidden in an interior compartment, sources said.
Investigators also have learned that Cooper's boyfriend, who is the father of her 8-year-old daughter, has ties to the drug trade in Hartford, including numerous arrests on drug-related charges, sources said.
Cooper, 33, an employee of the state Department of Children and Families, was attacked as she was picking up her daughter at the Hartford Area Seventh-day Adventist School on Woodland Street.
The attack occurred in the middle of the afternoon, creating fear among many in the community that an unknown gunman was loose, randomly selecting victims.
But sources said police were exploring the possibility Cooper was a target because her boyfriend had crossed someone in a drug deal, or had been piling up drug-related debts.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the gunman was after Cooper or just her vehicle, which he may have searched for the guns and cash, sources said.
Cooper, who was beaten and shot once in the side as she struggled to ward off her attacker, has been recovering at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where detectives questioned her about the incident over the weekend, sources said.
Cooper declined to talk to police about the incident and instead asked for an attorney, sources said.
Cooper, who remained in critical but stable condition Monday, was not available to comment on the incident. The 8-year-old, who escaped from the car, was not injured.
Nancy Mulroy, a police department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation Monday, saying only that it was being "actively and aggressively" pursued by detectives.
Cooper's assailant, who drove off in her SUV after the attack, remained at large Monday.
The SUV, a green BMW, was recovered later Thursday on Ogilby Drive, less than a mile from the scene of the carjacking.
Detectives who searched the SUV over the weekend used police dogs to sniff for drugs or other contraband, which led them to find the hidden compartment, sources said. After prying open an interior panel, detectives found the gun and cash, sources said.
The gunman was described by eyewitnesses as a black man about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds who was wearing dark clothes and a hood over his face.
Anyone with information about the carjacking is asked to call Det. Paul Cicero at 860-527-7300.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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