COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOIO) - We may be on the road to a new law thanks to our reporting on 19 News.
19′s Kelly Kennedy found several cases of local Black men minding their own business and getting the cops called on them.
Darren Cooper certainly never expected a law to be named after him, what happened to him last year that led to it, did not really surprise him.
“Before my incident, nothing like this had ever happened to me directly but I would see people of color, African American males, in particular, having situations with so-called Karen calls, being put in situations where their life was in danger or they lost their lives,” explained Cooper.
Aug. 13, 2020, is a day that still replays on repeat in the Hudson father’s head.
“As I look at that situation that’s when it really becomes very emotional because it feels like a movie, but I was not the main actor,” Cooper said. “That particular day I really thought I was going to lose my life when I’m sitting there minding my own business again drinking, tea, eating a danish talking on the speakerphone with my wife and hearing the police officers yell out, ‘hands up!’”
Cooper was sitting in his car getting ready to go into a work training event in Ravenna when he was suddenly surrounded by police with their weapons drawn.
“The second time the officers stated put your hands up I looked over and saw the officer’s weapon at that particular moment I thought he would shoot, or I’d possibly lose my life at that time,” said Cooper.
Cooper believes he was the victim of a racially motivated 911 call.
“There is a person sitting adjacent to me in a black mustang it looks as he has a pistol,” a 911 caller said. “He was holding it up. He is moving around in his seat erratically.”
All Cooper had was his iPhone.
Fast forward six months later and a bill is about to be introduced in the Ohio General Assembly called “Darren’s Law.”
“I feel great about the opportunity,” said Cooper. “It’s an honor. I’m very pleased to be here in more ways than one.”
After reporting Cooper’s story, Kennedy learned about another similar incident in Solon a few weeks later. Philip Evans was loading groceries into his car when a white woman called 911 accusing him of driving a stolen car. So, she reached out to representatives Thomas West and Casey Weinstein.
“Thank you for all the work that you’ve done on this to again bring it to light,” Representative West said. “This law is not to deter you from calling the police officers or calling 911, if you see a problem call 911. However, if you just see an African American walking through your neighborhood or sitting in their car or just putting their groceries in their car that is not something to call 911 on. Sometimes we have to mind our own business.”
“Darren’s Law,” named after Darren Cooper, will allow victims of racially motivated 911 calls to sue the callers for damages. It will also require implicit bias training for the caller if the court finds in favor of the person bringing the civil suit.
“It’s important that we correct the behavior so that we’re not continuing to move forward with all these people calling 911 falsely,” explained West.
Representative West had originally planned to include a new misdemeanor penalty in the bill that would carry a fine and or prison time but decided against it. There is already a law against filing a false report, so a caller who makes a racially motivated 911 call could still be charged criminally under that law.
West had been considering calling the bill the “Karen Act” but decided to go with “Darren’s Law” instead after getting some pushback from the public.
“Everyone named Karen out there feels like they are a Karen, that’s not what this is about,” explained West. “The whole goal of this bill is to address the issue of individuals calling 911 false claims and I just believe at this time and place it’s more appropriate to call this Darren. The gentleman who from Hudson Ohio who got a call and it really changed his life.”
Cooper still hopes the woman who called 911 will be held accountable for her actions, and that this will help.
“From day one I’ve always wanted charges to be brought against this party who made false claims about me — acting erratically, having a firearm, a gun, waving a gun in the air - stating for certain that they knew I had a pistol but definitely I would look into that.”