The 1997 D.C. Starbucks Murders

The 1997 D.C. Starbucks Murders

On July 6, 1997, three Starbucks employees were tragically killed in a shooting at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Washington D.C. area. A man forced the employees to lie on the floor and demanded they give him access to the store's safe. After the employees refused, the gunman shot all three of them multiple times before fleeing the scene. The next morning an opening employee discovered the bodies and ran into the street where they found a bus driver. The bus driver called the police.

Police arrived at the scene just minutes later. The shooting sparked a massive manhunt. The police investigation into the shooting at the D.C. Starbucks was extensive and involved the collection of physical evidence and interviews with witnesses. The only evidence at the scene was ten spent gun casings.

The case was cold for two years until an episode about the crime aired on “America’s Most Wanted”. A woman who watched the show put together the crime with the story her boyfriend told her about an associate of his who said he killed three people at a Starbucks. She went to the police, and they had her wear a wire. She then recorded her boyfriend’s description of the crime; it matched the evidence from the scene. With this information the police were able to get a phone tap for the man who told the boyfriend the story, Carl Derek Cooper.

Based on the wire recordings the police arrested and interrogated Cooper, but he maintained his innocence throughout the questioning, that he had been at home with his wife at the time of the shooting. Cooper was a career criminal and was involved in numerous other crimes. Cooper ultimately admitted to his role in the shooting only after striking a deal where he confessed to an additional murder of a security guard. The deal was if Cooper confessed to both the Starbucks and security guard killings the D.A. would take the death penalty off the table and in its place a life sentence would be substituted. Cooper accepted this deal and was then convicted of first-degree murder and several other charges, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The tragic event deeply impacted the local community and Starbucks as a company. The store where the shooting occurred was permanently closed, and Starbucks established a memorial fund in honor of the three victims to support community organizations working to prevent violence. The company also implemented new safety measures, such as armored trucks to transport cash and increased security training for employees.

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