Father of drunk driving victim pleased Halifax police warning public of offender's release

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
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Smits family want to see Michael Cooper prevented from buying alcohol

TC Media

Update: Halifax Regional Police distributed new photos of Cooper Jan. 23.

 The father one of the young people killed in an impaired driving crash a decade ago is pleased police have warned the public that the man whose actions killed his daughter is a high risk to reoffend.

Halifax Regional Police issued a public warning Jan. 21 about the release of Michael Gerard Cooper, 55, from a federal penitentiary after he served his full seven-year sentence for two convictions of impaired driving causing death. Cooper has indicated that he will reside in Halifax Regional Municipality upon being released.

For previous coverage, CLICK HERE.

In May 2004, 19-year-old Angela Smits of Sydney, and her boyfriend -  Michael MacLean, 20, of Albert Bridge - were pronounced dead at the scene on Highway 104 near River Bourgeois, following a head-on crash.

In 2011, Cooper admitted to the National Parole Board he would likely continue to consume alcohol whether or not his release conditions included abstaining, and he would drive a motor vehicle if given the opportunity, despite having a lifetime driving prohibition. He said he would continue to drink and drive.

The Cape Breton Post first reported last week that Gerry and Patricia Smits, the parents of Angela Smits, have asked the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. and licensing bodies the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and the Alcohol and Gaming Division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to take precautions to prevent Cooper from being able to purchase alcohol at retail or licensed establishments in Nova Scotia. At minimum, they have called for the distribution of Cooper's name and photo to each retail outlet and licensee in the province.

Gerry Smits said Jan. 21 he was pleased that the public has been advised of Cooper’s release and that his photo has been released.

“The whole thing is about awareness, it’s a way of protecting people,” Smits said. “It’s an obligation that we have to the public to notify them that this person is planning on doing what he’s doing.

“If he sticks to his word and comes out and does what he says he’s going to do, by all means, this person is a high-risk offender. It’s a high risk to the community.”

Smits said he has concerns about Cooper living in the Halifax Regional Municipality, noting it has a higher population density and more liquor retail outlets and licensed establishments than rural areas of the province.

“There’s a higher chance that this person could obtain alcohol or obtain a vehicle from that area,” Smits said.

As part of his release, Cooper is under numerous conditions including that he abstain from the consumption, purchase and possession of alcohol and abstain from entering any place where alcohol is sold or consumed. He is also subject to a daily curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Police have indicated there is a concern that Cooper may reoffend. Prior to his incarceration, Cooper was living in Cleveland, Richmond County.

Cooper was released from prison after serving his full sentence. It's a relatively rare incident, where the National Parole Board denied him statutory release after he served two-thirds of his time.

According to New Brunswick provincial court documents, because it is feared Cooper will commit a serious personal injury offence, for two years after his release he is subject to a strict 22-condition recognizance that prohibits him from consuming alcohol.

Cooper's criminal record dates back to 1975 and includes convictions for theft, possession of stolen property, drug possession and driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, and previous liquor and Motor Vehicle Act infractions. He is described as a white man, six-foot-three-inches tall, 250 pounds, with grey hair, brown eyes, a full beard and he wears glasses.

Police warn that any form of vigilante activity or other unreasonable conduct will not be tolerated.

Organizations: National Parole Board, Cape Breton Post, Nova Scotia Liquor Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Alcohol and Gaming Division

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Sydney, River Bourgeois Cleveland Richmond New Brunswick

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