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Juvenile charged with murder after Friday shooting in Clarksville / December 20, 2010
A 16-year-old Bluestone High School student is dead and a fellow ninth grader has been charged with first degree murder following a fatal shooting Friday afternoon at the residence of the alleged shooter outside of Clarksville.

Authorities have identified the victim as Harold Vernon Cooper, Jr., the son of Tanya Allen Wilson and stepfather Paul Wilson of Clarksville. He was found dead at the scene, of a single gunshot wound to the upper torso, after police responded to the 3:03 p.m. call.

Police have withheld the name of the alleged shooter, a 14-year-old Bluestone student, but friends and acquaintances say he is a neighbor of Cooper’s. A classmate said Cooper and the suspect were good friends.

Following his arrest, the teenage suspect, a white male, is being held at W.W. Moore Detention Center in Danville.

The Sun is withholding identification of the juvenile suspect pending a court decision to try him as an adult.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Danny Fox said yesterday that police have not determined what prompted the shooting, which took place at the suspect’s home on Valley Street, located in a neighborhood behind Lee’s Grocery on Route 15-N outside of Clarksville.

“We’re still conducting the investigation on that,” said Fox. “We really can’t get into that part right now.”

Fox said there were other individuals at the residence, including an adult, but none was in a position to intervene to stop the shooting. One parent apparently had gone out for a brief period when the incident occurred, said the sheriff.

Police say the assailant fired a .22 caliber rifle at Cooper. They have not positively determined whom the gun belonged to.

“I don’t know that anyone really realized what was going on,” said Fox.

Fox called the incident “just a terrible tragedy” involving “good people” and he said there was no indication that the two boys had any kind of ongoing conflict.

Fox said the decision to bring the charge of first degree murder was made in consultation with Mecklenburg County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ed Coleman and Commonwealth’s Attorney Nora Miller. Unlike the less severe charge of second degree murder, first degree indicates premeditation, acknowledged Miller. She said the charge was filed based on information provided by the Sheriff’s Office Friday night.

Miller declined to discuss details of the case, citing the juvenile status of both the defendant and victim.

“When you’re dealing with kids, I just don’t think we should say anything,” said Miller.

She said the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court will hold a preliminary hearing to decide whether to certify the murder charge to a grand jury. If the case is certified and the grand jury issues an indictment, the 14-year-old suspect will be tried as an adult, although the court would retain a range of sentencing options, both juvenile and adult, in the event the teen is found guilty.

The next step in the legal process, said Miller, is likely to be a teleconference with a juvenile court judge early in January to decide how to proceed with the case. A review hearing has been docketed for Jan. 5 but that timetable could change, she said.

The teen suspect is being defended by David Powers III, a Chesterfield attorney. Reached by phone yesterday, Powers declined comment.

The shooting occurred as both teenagers were out of school due to inclement weather. On Monday, Bluestone students returned to class, where they coped with the loss of one classmate and the knowledge that another had been charged with murder.

Kristie Somerville, principal at Bluestone, said in an e-mail Tuesday that the school community “is deeply saddened by Harold’s passing” and wore red in his honor yesterday. Postings by friends on Facebook indicate that red was Cooper’s favorite color. On Monday, students held a moment of silence during lunch in the victim’s honor.

Administrators, faculty and other staff also planned to attend the visitation for Cooper last night at a Chase City funeral home, said Somerville.

She said Bluestone guidance counselors and the school psychologist have made themselves “available to counsel grieving students and/or faculty members” and “I can say that Harold will truly be missed by all.”

Cody Lewis, a ninth grade student at Bluestone, said he considered Cooper “as a brother to me, and he considered me as a brother to him.

“He was a friend of everybody. I don’t understand it — he didn’t have any enemies or nothing.”

Lewis said the Cooper and the alleged assailant had been best friends in sixth grade and that the suspect was a straight A’s student at Bluestone. “He was a good guy, he never got in any fights, he never hurt anybody,” said Lewis.

Cooper played on the offensive line with the jayvee football team and was a member of the New Beginnings program at Bluestone. He also harbored a deep interest in firefighting and made many friends in the Boydton Volunteer Fire Department while living in town for most of his childhood.

Prior to moving to the Clarksville area several years ago. Cooper grew up in Boydton where people in town knew him “basically just as the neighborhood kid,” said Johnny Kirkland, a friend and chief of the Boydton Fire Department.

“He would ride his bicycle around and everybody knew him. He never met a stranger,” said Kirkland. “He was just a typical all-American little boy. He loved life, he loved to fish, and his dream was always to become a fireman.”

Following his death, the Boydton fire department named Cooper an honorary member. “We thought it would be a fitting tribute if we could help out with that,” said Kirkland.

Cooper accompanied the Boydton firemen to regional competitions on several occasions, recalled Kirkland, who continued to stay in touch with the youth after he moved away from Boydton. “He was probably one of our most avid supporters. He always loved the fire department,” Kirkland said.

Boydton firefighters plan to serve as honorary pallbearers at Cooper’s funeral, slated for today in La Crosse, and South Hill and La Crosse firefighters, many of whom also got to know Cooper, are preparing to bring ladder trucks to the funeral in honor of the young man.

The question on the minds of most — why? — has yet to produce a solid answer. Cody Lewis, friend to both boys, said he has heard the by-now familiar rumors swirling about the school — the most prominent involves a dispute as the two boys played video games — and nothing about the episode makes sense to him.

“This was just a shocker,” he said.

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i think this is none fair my nephew is dead he will never be able to become a marine have a family in it was all taken away by a ?. i miss my nephew we spent many times together he was like a son to me he will be greatly missed when he shot in killed my nephew he took a part of me away also i think the parents ought to be responsible for the easy access to the fire arm in which killed my nephew i hope the law gives the 14 yr old life in prision signed uncle p in hold the parents accountable also.south hill va 23970

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