Superior police: Victim fatally shot once in chestUPDATE: Superior police said 35-year-old Toriano Dawen "Snapper" Cooper was fatally shot once in the chest outside of his home Sunday.
By: Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune
The victim in Sunday’s fatal shooting in Superior apparently was shot once in the chest, the Superior Police Department announced today.
Toriano Dawen “Snapper” Cooper, 35, was shot outside a home at 1901 N. 12th St. in Superior at about 10 a.m. He made it into the home, where he died before medical personnel arrived.
“We believe that Mr. Cooper was specifically targeted in this incident and the public should not be concerned that this was a random act of violence,” police said in a news release.
“Investigators of the Superior Police Department are talking with friends and relatives of the victim in an effort to determine motive and the identities of person(s) that may be involved in this homicide,” the release said. “Investigators have spoken to witnesses that said they observed the victim and another adult African American male standing near the victim’s home just prior to the shooting.”
Authorities are asking anyone who was in the area at the time of the shooting and might have seen a suspect on foot or in a vehicle to call the Superior Police Department.
An autopsy will be conducted on Cooper’s body Tuesday to confirm the apparent cause of death.
On Sunday the victim’s brother, Antron Cooper, speculated likely was killed because of drug activities.
“My brother had a drug problem his whole life, and this is the end result of it,” said Antron Cooper, who lives in Minneapolis. “He did something to somebody, and they turned around and took his life.”
Kristina Lampi, who referred to Toriano Cooper as her fiance, said it was too early to know whether his death had anything to do with his prior involvement with drugs.
“He had been doing good lately. Drugs were a constant fight for him. It wasn’t easy, but we have tried to help him overcome them,” said Lampi, noting that Cooper had been sober for 22 days straight at the time of the shooting.
Police said they have no information on a suspect and are seeking the public’s help. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Superior Police Department tip line at (715) 395-7468.
Cooper said that regardless of the role drugs may have played in his brother’s death, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this kind of hurt in my whole life.”
Lampi said she and Toriano Cooper had been together for about seven years.
“We’ve had our ups and downs and breakups,” she said, but added that they were mending their relationship when his life was cut short. She said her three children, ages 1, 7 and 8, considered Cooper their father, even though they were born of other relationships.
Lampi, who is five months pregnant, said: “Now, another child will be born into this world without a father.”
In addition to his brother’s relationship with Lampi’s children, Antron Cooper said Toriano had three biological children of his own, ages 8 to 16, with another woman. He had lived in Superior for about 12 to 15 years.
A friend of Toriano Cooper’s, Chucc Walker, described him as someone who could really connect with young people and was known to take time out to toss a football around with kids in the neighborhood.
Walker said Cooper was a talented mechanic, known for customizing vehicles, and was no troublemaker.
“He was one of those guys you’d want for a neighbor,” Walker said. “He was one of the few men I would trust to watch my kids.”
Neighbors said Cooper was cleaning his car in front of his home before he was shot. After the gunfire began, he was able to get back inside a friend’s home but quickly succumbed to his injuries, police said.
Angella Baumgartner said Cooper was visiting her family and had been working on his car outside. She said she didn’t see anything through her curtained windows when shots rang out.
Before his collapse, Baumgartner recalls Cooper at the door. “He came running in and said: ‘They shot me.’”
Lampi was not with Cooper on Sunday morning, but she received a text message from him at 10:02 a.m. saying: “Good morning, my love.”
Nine minutes later, she received a frantic call from Baumgartner that Cooper had just been shot in the chest and an ambulance was on the way. He never made it.
Cooper said he was told by police that it appeared one of the bullets had hit his brother’s heart.
Toriano Cooper has a lengthy criminal record in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including two assault convictions, car theft and robbery in St. Louis County, and assault in Aitkin County. In Douglas County, he has a conviction for being involved in a hit-and-run, and numerous convictions for driving a vehicle with a suspended or invalid license. He was also facing two charges of battery and one charge of disorderly conduct in a case filed in October that was still pending.
John Anderson, who lives next door to the crime scene, went outside Sunday morning to warm up his pickup, saw Cooper cleaning his car and said hello to him. Anderson returned to his home and was upstairs when he recalls hearing three gunshots a short while later.
Later, Anderson said he saw police surround the house and was told the man was dead.
Another neighbor, Shari Birch, said after police arrived on the scene, a child at the Baumgartner residence shouted out a window at spectators that his uncle had just died and people should show more respect.
According to property records, the home is owned by Richard and Gail Hoffman, who live in Billings Park. Gail Hoffman said the home was a rental, but said she had no other information on the shooting. She said she called Superior police but was told they couldn’t provide any information as it was an active investigation.
Birch said the home had been rented out to new tenants in early December.
Birch has lived in the same neighborhood since 1994, and said it was generally a peaceful place, with only occasional problems related to garage and vehicle break-ins. Birch did note that lately she has observed an increase in neighborhood traffic at odd hours.
“But nothing like this has ever happened,” she said. “I have two small grandkids. Do I have to worry about them going outside?”
Lampi urged anyone with knowledge of Cooper’s shooting to step forward.
“He was an amazing person, and whoever did this has to be brought to justice. His loved ones need closure,” she said. “A life was taken away due to this angry act, and it’s not fair. He did not deserve it.”