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The circumstances surrounding Cooper's death are controversial. On September 16, 2001, officers of the Apache County Sheriff's Office decided to serve Cooper a warrant based on the above-mentioned charges.
For reasons not explained, the Sheriff's Office sent deputies to Cooper's home at approximately 11:00PM, and instead of knocking on his door and announcing themselves, the deputies attempted to lure Cooper from his house by posing as citizens playing loud music on or near his property. Cooper, who was an above the knee amputee, went down to investigate the scene in his truck.
It is disputed whether the deputies identified themselves or tried to serve an arrest warrant at that time. Nevertheless, Cooper announced he was returning to his house to contact the Eager Police Department, either to verify the warrant or to contact the local authorities in order to report what he may have still believed was a real disturbance.
Before he could do so however, the sheriff's deputies tried to apprehend him, at which point shooting began. Although it is unclear who began firing, there are some who question the uncertain circumstances, and who was responsible for first shots fired. Cooper was armed and one deputy was wounded. Another deputy returned fire, killing Cooper.
Milton William Cooper was 58 years old.