A family in pain is calling for justice after a 34-year-old man was shot and killed by a Miami Police officer after a traffic stop earlier this month.
“He was my heartbeat. That was my real heartbeat," Antwon Cooper's mother, Tilasha Cooper, exclusively told NBC 6 on Tuesday. "He just took my son. He just took my son away from me.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating after a Miami Police officer killed Cooper on March 8. The shooting happened that later afternoon in the area of Northwest 74th Street and 10th Avenue, near Miami Northwestern Senior High School.
During the traffic stop, police said one of the two occupants in the car — who was later identified as Cooper — was armed, and that's when the confrontation and shooting happened.
Police recovered a weapon at the scene, but the family says after watching the bodycam video and video from the school, they believe the officer killed Cooper for absolutely no reason. They believe Cooper didn’t pull a weapon or point a weapon at either of the two officers at the scene.
“They just took my son — my grandson from me," Cooper's grandmother Helen Bryant said. “I don’t know what to say because my heart is so broken right now. I just know that he didn’t need to be shot like that. He didn’t need to be shot like that. I don’t care if he had a record from here to the North Pole, they didn’t have no business killing my grandson like that. They shot him in the head like he was some kind of animal."
Cooper’s father Gerald Adams carried with him a pair of red high-top tennis shoes when he came to see the family’s lawyer and NBC 6 on Tuesday. They were a gift from his son, but he didn’t get to wear them while his son was alive.
“My son was killed. He was shot in the head. He didn’t deserve that," Adams said.
"Never think that I’d be sitting in doing something like this on one of mine," grandfather Melvin Bryant said.
Cooper’s family described raising him — after serving a prison term that ended a decade ago, he worked in construction and was moving in the right direction.
"I want the police who was responsible for it, I want him arrested," Helen Bryant said.
“Because with our own eyes, we’ve seen the footage," family attorney Rawsi Williams said.
Williams said Cooper didn’t have his driver's license and they didn’t know anything about Cooper. She said the second officer arrived and quickly shot Cooper.
"This officer he shot Mr. Antwon Cooper in the head," she said. "If the footage is really shown that is what people will see. They will see that he shot him in the head at close range. They will see that he is so reckless in his shooting that he shot in the head at close range with another officer right there."
"(Cooper) never punched him. He never swung at him. He never kicked him. He wasn’t brandishing any weapon. He wasn’t pointing any weapon at anybody," family attorney Frank T. Allied said from his Orlando office. "The only thing that he was trying to do was to free himself from (the officer's) grip."
Adams thinks the police didn’t follow their policies.
“I mean they are the police and they are trained. So, I feel like you know things could have been handled a lot more professionally," Adams said.
“Hunt for deers, or rabbits or something. That was a human being just like your family," Bryant said. "Your family is human beings too and he took my grandson from me and took him from his momma, too."
After Miami Police Chief Manny Morales met with the family, he sent NBC 6 a statement, saying, “It was incredibly emotional for Assistant Chief Cherise Gause and myself meeting with the Cooper family today. We offered our condolences and we will continue to fully cooperate with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and offered any support needed by the family during this difficult time.”
The family is planning to sue.
"Justice demands that we come here today because Mr. Cooper had a right to be free from the excessive force, actually lethal force," Williams said.
FDLE says it's moving forward with its investigation. Normally, it does take weeks that turn into months for witnesses and forensics to be gathered.