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Vietnam vet killed in broad daylight Chicago carjacking attempt

Police officers depart in patrol SUVs on May 28, 2020, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune/TNS)
July 16, 2021

A 73-year-old Vietnam veteran suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after a pair of teenagers began beating him in a carjacking attempt in Chicago in broad daylight on Wednesday.

Keith Cooper, 73, died Wednesday at around 12:30 p.m. in the Hyde Park area after the two suspects demanded he give them his car and then repeatedly punched him in the head. Cooper’s family said his heart could not handle the trauma of the attack and he was pronounced dead at the hospital of a heart attack, Fox News reported

Police said the suspects, an adult and a juvenile, are responsible for the beating that led to Cooper’s death, ABC 7 Chicago reported. The two suspects in the attack, aged 17 and 18, have been arrested and charged with the murder.

The 18-year-old, identified by police as Frank Harris, was charged with murder and vehicular hijacking. The unnamed 17-year-old suspect has been charged with first-degree murder.

“[The suspects] tried to steal his car. You didn’t even get his car when you took his life,” Cooper’s son-in-law, Curtis Carlton, told KBTX. “It was two guys preying on a senior citizen.”

Cooper was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served two combat tours during the Vietnam War. He died just days before his 74th birthday.

“I’m just in shock. I’m still in shock because this is not the way I thought my day was going to go,” Cooper’s daughter, Kenika Carlton said.

Fox News reported carjackings in Chicago have increased in recent years, with a 135 percent spike in carjacking incidents in 2020 over 2019, according to one study. 2019 saw a total of 603 carjackings compared to 1,416 in 2020. In May, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) also reported a 15 percent increase in motor vehicle theft so far this year over 2020, with 3054 instances this year. The CPD also reported a 22 percent increase in homicide so far from 2020 to 2021, with 195 cases as of May.

As of May’s CPD numbers, criminal sexual assault was also up 12 percent over 2020 numbers, with 648 cases by that point.

CPD did show a six percent reduction in robbery, a seven percent reduction in aggravated burglary, a 31 percent reduction in burglary and a 12 percent reduction in theft as of May 2021.