Cook claims self-defense in fatal shooting of police officer

Posted: Friday, October 27, 2000

PALMER (AP) -- Kim Michael Cook is claiming self-defense in the shooting death of a Palmer police officer last year.

The 53-year-old Cook testified in his own defense Thursday in Superior Court at Palmer. Cook has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Officer James Rowland Jr. last year.

Cook is acting as his own defense counsel after firing his public defenders earlier in the week.

He told jurors that Rowland, 30, had been abusive and that the shooting occurred after events escalated.

Prosecutors, however, contend that Cook killed Rowland in a cold-blooded ambush because he hates police officers and was afraid he was going to be arrested. He was driving with an expired license and tags.

They read from letters Cook wrote to his father where he talked about shooting police.

The incident occurred in the early morning hours of May 15. That came after the officer stopped to check on a man slumped over the wheel of a pickup in a grocery store parking lot. The man, Cook, was napping while on his way back home in Slana from a trip to Anchorage.

Long before he shot and killed Rowland, Cook had decided he would fight back if anyone tried to arrest him.

''I'm to the point where if someone's going to arrest me, they're going to have to beat me up and carry me in,'' Cook told jurors. ''At least then you can sue them.''

Still, Cook said he never planned to shoot Rowland. He fired his gun only after the officer shot him, he said.

''He was attacking me,'' Cook said. ''I wasn't attacking him.''

Rowland asked if Cook was drunk and if he had a gun. Rowland, Cook testified, said, ''Make my day.''

Cook claimed Rowland asked him to get out of the truck and walk to the back. But as they walked, the officer turned and jabbed his elbow into him, Cook said. Rowland then tried to throw Cook to the ground, but Cook resisted, he said.

He said he asked Rowland, ''Why are you doing this?''

When he didn't get a response, Cook said, he ran to his truck, planning to drive away.

But Rowland followed and tackled him, Cook said, and the two wrestled inside the truck.

Rowland tried to grab Cook's arm to handcuff him, but Cook fought back. Then Rowland shot him twice in the chest, Cook said, and started backing up. Cook then grabbed his gun and shot Rowland while he was standing near the door.

The shot hit Rowland just above his bulletproof vest, piercing his throat.

''It was a lucky shot,'' Cook said.

Assistant District Attorney Dave Berry questioned Cook's version of events.

If Rowland attacked him, then why didn't the passenger sitting in his patrol car see the attack? And why did ballistics evidence show the bullet that hit Rowland had a downward trajectory?

That seemed to contradict Cook's claim that he shot from the seat of the truck toward Rowland, who was standing, Berry said. Ballistics experts also found powder burns inside Cook's jacket, showing he had fired his gun from inside the jacket, a claim he disputes.

Cook said Rowland's passenger must have looked down for a minute. As for the other evidence, it has been tampered with, he said.

All Rowland had to do was stop coming after him, Cook said.

''I wasn't making the choices,'' he said.

Berry's terse reply: ''You were making choices, sir. You ran to the car, and you shot him, didn't you?''

The two had several testy exchanges, and at one point, Cook said he no longer was going to answer questions. But he changed his mind after being told all his testimony might be thrown out if he didn't answer.

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