Starting at 8 PM on Saturday evening, people calling themselves “Cooper’s Troopers” began a vigil / protest in front of the Oak Harbor City Hall. Their stated main intent: to express dissatisfaction with Island County prosecutor Gregg Banks’ decision to release Jason Ellis from jail last Monday. Ellis and Chris Cooper had been in a physical altercation in Oak Harbor on November 17th. City of Oak Harbor police arrested Ellis on Saturday, November 24th in conjunction with that altercation. On Thursday, November 27th, three days after Banks ordered Ellis released from jail, Chris Cooper died of head injuries.
“Cooper’s Troopers”, about 20 of whom were present around 10 PM, maintained that Banks’ decision to release Ellis was folly. They also expressed concern that the Oak Harbor police had failed to act quickly enough on evidence which they claimed to have provided to the police, including pictures of Jason Ellis’ bruised knuckles on the same night he and Cooper had fought. They also claimed that City of Oak Harbor police had taken days to figure out how to view the electronic file of relevant video which had been taken on Chris Cooper’s cell phone and had instead initially relied only on the audio portion of that information, which did not correctly relate the full scope of events that had transpired on November 17th when the two men fought.
Cooper’s Troopers also expressed a great deal of support for Mayor Dudley, who had visited Chris Cooper while he was hospitalized. They were, however, very unhappy with local police, who, they say, had promised to travel to Harborview Medical Center to document Chris Cooper’s injuries via photographic evidence, but never showed up.
Some demonstrators had made signs to express support for Chris Cooper. Many of them held battery-powered candles. Passing vehicles often honked their horns to show their support. The demonstration was planning to move to Pioneer Way around 2 AM to the intersection of SE Pioneer Way and SE City Beach Road, where they say is near where the altercation between Ellis and Cooper took place.
When asked about Chris Cooper’s death, Mayor Scott Dudley indicated that the City of Oak Harbor had sent additional relevant information to Gregg Banks’ office on Friday, 30 November. The Mayor also defended the arrest of Jason Ellis that City of Oak Harbor police had made on Saturday 24 November.
Mayor Dudley and one of Cooper’s Troopers, Jason Youngsman, have indicated that a witness exists who claims to have seen the altercation between Ellis and Cooper. Youngsman also added that he had at first been skeptical of the witness until the witness accurately described to Youngsman some articles of clothing known to have been worn that night by one of the men. Youngsman is a Cooper family friend.
Dudley said that at the time of Ellis’ arrest, police believed a crime had been committed, that they had enough evidence to arrest Ellis, and that seeking Greg Banks’ prior permission to arrest Ellis was not a factor in their decision to do so.