Jury convicts Slana man of police officer murder

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000

PALMER (AP) -- A Palmer jury deliberated just two hours Friday before convicting Kim Cook of first-degree murder for killing a police officer who had stopped to check on his well-being.

Jurors rejected Cook's claim that he was attacked by Palmer police officer James Rowland Jr. and fired his gun only after Rowland shot him.

Cook, who had dismissed his attorneys and represented himself in court, argued that he had a right to defend himself against unwarranted arrest and told jurors the case is symbolic of a national problem.

''You people should be concerned because our freedoms are all illusions,'' said Cook, who called himself a libertarian. ''... too many people prefer to see no threat to freedom because to admit to that threat implies a willingness to accept sacrifice to combat it.''

Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak summed up Cook's beliefs another way.

''We're here for one reason, because he felt his right to be left alone was more important than someone else's right to live,'' he said.

Cook, 53, shot Rowland on May 15, 1999, after the officer stopped to do a welfare check on a man slumped over a steering wheel in the Carrs Quality Center parking lot in Palmer. The man, Cook, was napping in his truck while on his way home to Slana from Anchorage.

Prosecutors contended that Cook shot Rowland, 30, because he hated police officers and feared being arrested. Cook was driving with an expired license and tags.

Rowland is the first Palmer police officer killed in the line of duty.

''I'm glad he won't do it again to another police officer,'' said Rowland's mother, Wanda. ''It's so sad that someone is so warped in their thinking.''

Twice before, Cook had made threats about shooting officers. After being arrested on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus on a charge of carrying a concealed gun, he told the officer he would have shot him had he known he was going to take him into custody, Kalytiak said.

In 1998, Cook was stopped in California for expired license plates. He later wrote to his father, detailing how he had planned to fight back had the officers tried to arrest him, and stated that it would have been ''easier to shoot them.''

Two weeks after the stop, he bought two .22-caliber handguns under a fake name in Washington state, including the one he used to shoot Rowland, Kalytiak said.

Cook, in his final address to the jury, said he was sorry about the killing. But he said he was the one who was attacked that night.

The fact that Cook was shot while inside his truck ''shows he was taking the fight to me,'' Cook said.

Cook is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 22. He faces a maximum sentence of 99 years and possibly a mandatory sentence of 99 years under a law that addresses officers killed in the line of duty.

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