Lawyer fatally shot in Guilford mugging

May 29, 1994|By Marcia Myers and Sandy Banisky | Marcia Myers and Sandy Banisky,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Alan C. Craver, Erik Nelson and Glenn Small contributed to this article.

A Baltimore attorney returning home from a chess club meeting was shot fatally early yesterday in an apparent robbery near his home in Guilford, the second homicide to shatter the normally quiet neighborhood in two weeks.

Police said Marvin B. Cooper had parked his car and was walking in the 200 block of Chancery Road, around the corner from his home, about 1:30 a.m. when he was approached by a man who apparently took his wallet and shot him once in the stomach.

Several neighbors called police after hearing the shot and Mr. Cooper's cries for help. He apparently made it to one house and rang the doorbell before police arrived. But police said they have found no witnesses to the shooting.

Mr. Cooper, 45, of the 3600 block of Greenway was conscious when police arrived and gave officers a brief description of what had occurred. Police said last night that they had no suspects.

He was known as a quiet intellectual who ran a small law practice in South Baltimore focusing on commercial, bankruptcy and real estate law.

His father, Samuel, was a longtime professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law who died of cancer last month. Mr. Cooper's wife, Gustava, graduated from the law school Monday night. They had no children.

Mr. Cooper was taken to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, where he died in surgery at 3:25 a.m.

Word of the killing spread yesterday through the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of spacious homes -- an area still shocked by the May 14 attack on a retired Johns Hopkins University professor in a robbery and assault on the porch of his nearby Oakenshawe rowhouse that resulted in his death two days later.

Two people have been arrested in that killing.

"People here are just shocked to death," said a woman who lives in Mr. Cooper's apartment building and asked not to be named. "This is one of the most trouble-free places, but it isn't what it used to be. Nothing is, unfortunately."

The neighborhood always has been considered relatively crime free. But two years ago, Guilford residents hired a security service in response to several car thefts and burglaries.

Since then, residents and police say, the area has seen a dramatic decrease in crime. Petty thefts -- the stealing of a trash can or bicycle -- are now considered the only typical crimes, and even those are relatively rare, they said.

"We get suspicious persons and stuff like that, but nothing that ever amounted to anything this big," said Sgt. Gabe Bidner, the Northern District day-shift commander. "This was probably someone who was going through the area and saw a chance to make a few dollars."

The owner of Centurion Guards, the private security company Guilford residents hired to patrol their streets, said yesterday that he believed the incident was random.

"I would say this is an isolated incident. It's just terrible that it happened so close to the other incident," said Wayne Cosgrove, Centurion's owner. He said he has seven or eight employees patrolling the Guilford area.

Timothy D. A. Chriss, president of the Guilford Association, declined to comment about the killing or its effect on the neighborhood.

Two weeks ago, William H. McClain, a 77-year-old retired German professor at the Johns Hopkins University, was attacked by a man outside his front door, in the 3400 block of Oakenshawe Place. He was punched in the face and fell backward, hitting his head on the concrete floor of his porch. His $150 watch and a wallet that belonged to a companion with him at the time were stolen.

In 37 years of living in the neighborhood, he had never been a crime victim, his family said.

Mr. Cooper was returning early yesterday morning from a meeting of the Catonsville Chess Club when his assailant approached him on foot. When police arrived, his wallet was missing, but a $5 bill and three keys were near him. His Saturn sedan was parked on the street nearby.

"He indicated he'd been robbed -- that was about all he could say before they rushed him to the hospital," Sergeant Bidner said.

Professional chess player

Mr. Cooper's brother-in-law described him as a free spirit.

"He was a grown-up who had a childlike joy of life," said Dr. George Taler.

In 1970, after graduation from St. John's College in Annapolis, Mr. Cooper became a professional chess player. In those years, as he described in his resume, he "traveled extensively throughout the United States in pursuit of chess glory."

He played in chess tournaments, presented blindfolded chess exhibitions, gave chess demonstrations as a volunteer in prisons and schools, and offered private tutoring and in-class instructions.

"Basically, he lived in his car and traveled around to play chess," Dr. Taler said.

He gave up his traveling and returned to Baltimore in 1973 to work as a real-estate appraiser for Philip E. Klein & Associates. In 1978, he left to attend the University of Baltimore School of Law, from which he graduated in 1981.

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