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Leerburg Articles An Article on Marcus Cook That Appeared in The Dallas Morning News

An Article on Marcus Cook That Appeared in The Dallas Morning News

An Article on Marcus Cook That Appeared in The Dallas Morning News

Written By "Gayle Reaves"
Copyright The Dallas Morning News

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Marcus Cook. Cook is the president of the Texas Police K-9 Association. The fact is that Cook was one of the founders of this organization. The members just recently realized that Cook wrote the by-laws and set himself up to be president for life. Considering Cook’s personality, this should not come as a surprise to anyone. Cook threw me off the Texas Police K-9 Association when I disagreed with a few of his opinions. After doing a little research into his background, this also does not surprise me. The following article appeared in the Dallas Morning News. It gives an insight into Marcus Cook. I have my opinion of this man and the type of law enforcement officer and human being that he is. I will leave it up to you to form your own opinion.

If you would like to follow this story from the beginning, check out the following articles on my web site:

My advice to Mr. Cook is to get out of law enforcement!

Lake Dallas police Sgt. Marcus C. Cook proudly displays pictures on the Internet of himself, his canine partner Sampson, his patrol car, even his black panthers.

However, his cyberspace bio includes no hint of the allegations aired recently in a Denton courtroom and in the pages of a half-dozen lawsuits.

Allegations about threats to kill a compliant prisoner, Sampson let loose on a handcuffed suspect, a young man's death on a dark road, a mysterious killing in Dallas.

The incidents are part of a storm that seems to have outgrown the
2"-square-mile lake town along Interstate 35E. At the eye of the storm is Sgt. Marcus Cook.

“I believe there's a very dangerous man out there,” said Denton lawyer Grace Weatherly, who represented two former officers in lawsuits against Lake Dallas. She won a $30,000 settlement in one case, and lost the more recent one.

“I've talked to enough people who have convinced me that Sgt. Cook does not need to be carrying a weapon.”

Sgt. Cook, a former Officer of the Year, said the complaints are lies or misrepresentations and that some critics are jealous that he won the sergeant's job instead of them in November 1995.

Lake Dallas Police Chief Nick Ristagno called Sgt. Cook an excellent crime-fighter. He said he has no concerns about his performance.

Corinth Police Officer Kevin Tyson was knocked down and bitten by Sgt. Cook's police dog. He also was present when the German Shepherd bit a handcuffed prisoner.

Officer Tyson said many officers in nearby towns want nothing to do with Sgt. Cook.

“Every officer in Hickory Creek and Corinth feels that way,” he said. “If someone needs help, we're going to help them... But at the same time, I don't want to be around him if I can help it.”

Chief Ristagno said the controversy is rooted in jealousy against Sgt. Cook, 31. The son of a longtime Dallas police officer has risen from trainee to supervisor in less than two years.

A recent civil jury decision upholding the firing of Officer Jerry Kelley vindicated his department, the chief said.

Lake Dallas has 10 full-time police officers, plus dispatchers and administrators. In the last three years, four Lake Dallas officers have been fired. All say they were punished for questioning Sgt. Cook's performance. At least three others have quit.

Sgt. Cook has sued five former colleagues and a former City Council member for defamation.

“When you've got as many lawsuits as you have police officers, you've got problems,” said Dallas attorney Rick Bunch, a former Dallas policeman who represents three other ex-Lake Dallas officers.

“There's always somebody going to be sued, yelling that you did something wrong. That is typical in law enforcement,” Sgt. Cook said.

But some law enforcement officers don't consider typical ... or proper Sgt. Cook's actions in numerous incidents:

pi U‚Chance Peoples, a 17-year-old burglary suspect believed to be armed, had been stopped by Officers Mark Simpson and Corrycq Blount on Dec. 8, 1995. When Sgt. Cook reached the scene, he chambered a round in his shotgun, placed it at the suspect's temple and threatened to blow his head off if he moved.

“We thought he was really about to shoot this kid on the ground,” Officer Blount said.

Sgt. Cook said then-Officer Simpson, a rookie with a few days experience, was fumbling his gun and handcuffs, and that the suspect was upright, moving and not even partially handcuffed.

The other two officers testified last month in former Officer Kelley's lawsuit that the prisoner was spread-eagled on the ground, obeying all commands, and that one wrist was already cuffed when Sgt. Cook arrived. Mr. Simpson had been a Lake Dallas officer for 10 months before the incident.

pi U‚Many of the questions raised about Sgt. Cook have to do with his canine partner Sampson. Sgt. Cook released Sampson on a handcuffed, resisting prisoner in May 1995. Sgt. Cook said the action was proper because Shannon Swink was not under complete control. He said the dog's bite did not draw blood.

Mr. Swink, now in prison, said he has the scars to prove it did. Several other police dog handlers said their agencies would have acted differently.

Sgt. William Buchanan, head of the Dallas Police Department canine squad, said his department's policy is that "it must be a deadly force situation before a dog can be turned loose.''

It is no more proper to allow a dog to bite a handcuffed subject "than it is to strike a handcuffed person,'' said Richard Dickson, a police dog handler and investigator with the Yoakum County district attorney's office.

Mr. Dickson is one of several dog handlers around the country with whom Sgt. Cook has disagreed over dog training methods and the operation of the Texas K9 Police Association for Certification and Standards, which Sgt. Cook founded.

pi U‚On Jan. 28, 1996, Sgt. Cook sent Sampson after a suspect who fled with several officers on his heels. Sampson first knocked down Officer Tyson and bit his arm. Despite the thickness of his jacket, the bite "broke the skin just from the pressure. I busted my knee open when I hit ground. I had a mark on my arm for a good six months.''

A second officer reported that Sampson bit him painfully on the foot while he was trying to handcuff the suspect and tried to bite a third officer.

Sgt. Cook and Chief Ristagno agreed that the dog should not have been released so quickly.

pi U‚Sgt. Cook stopped Gilberto Rico and his two passengers ... girlfriend Catalina Ramirez, 15, and a relative, Angelica Rico ... for a traffic violation on the night of May 5, 1996.

When he found that Mr. Rico had no driver's license or proof of insurance, Sgt. Cook impounded the 18-year-old's car. Later that night, as Mr. Rico and the young women walked along a dark, shoulder-less road near Lake Dallas, Mr. Rico was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Sgt. Cook said he had taken the three young people to a telephone at a nearby apartment complex and asked if he could drive them somewhere. He said Ms. Ramirez, who spoke the best English of the three, declined.

Apartment manager Shannon Woolaver said she remembers the trio standing near the pay phone. Angelica Rico, 25, said Ms. Ramirez told her she asked Sgt. Cook to take them home to Denton, but he refused. She said they did use the phone but couldn't find anyone to pick them up.

Mr. Rico's parents are suing Lake Dallas for negligence.

Many people see Sgt. Marcus Cook as friendly, efficient and even charming. His personnel files contain notes of praise from citizens and his bosses.

“He has more commendations in his file than anybody,” Chief Ristagno said. “He's a worker ... with Marcus, it's 110 percent.”

But in several instances, public records and interviews disagree with Sgt. Cook's version of his background.

Sgt. Cook, 31, told The Dallas Morning News that all of his employment background has been in animal control, law enforcement or security work. He worked as a dogcatcher in The Colony before coming to Lake Dallas as a police dispatcher in 1993.

The only private companies with which he has worked, he said, are his current security firm and an earlier job with another security company, Dallas Recon.

Several former colleagues said Sgt. Cook talked about working for a helicopter or aviation services company.

Sgt. Cook disagreed. “That's not me,” he told The News. State and Dallas county records and lawsuit files connect Sgt. Cook as the registrant or director of numerous helicopter and air charter companies, most apparently inactive. Several shared a business address with Dallas Recon. Another aviation firm and a former landlord obtained judgments against Mr. Cook and his companies.

The question of helicopter companies is also a part of the most serious allegation raised against Sgt. Cook: that he told several colleagues he had once shot a man in Dallas, while living there and working for a helicopter company.

One helicopter company registered by Marcus C. Cook lists the owner's address as 1714 Browder St. in Dallas. Sgt. Cook said he never lived there.

In the interview, he said at different times that he was born and raised in Dallas and that he had never lived in Dallas.

Hickory Creek police Sgt. Robin Robertson said Sgt. Cook told her the story of the alleged Dallas shooting. She is married to Phillip Robertson, one of the officers who alleges he was fired by Lake Dallas police in retaliation for criticizing Sgt. Cook. She said she briefly dated Marcus Cook before her marriage.

She identified 1714 Browder St. as the building Mr. Cook pointed out as his former residence and the place where the shooting happened.

“That's the house,” she said. “He said there was a man trying to jimmy the door. The guy started to run. He said he shot him in the back and killed him... He was bragging about it.”

She said Sgt. Cook told her the incident was investigated as a drive-by murder.

Dallas police records show one unsolved shooting of a man in the general vicinity of the Browder Street address, in 1991, which several witnesses said was a drive-by shooting. Dallas police said they had no reason to believe Sgt. Cook was involved in that crime.

Former Officer Simpson, not a party to any of the lawsuits, testified last month that Sgt. Cook told him a version of the same story.

Lake Dallas Mayor Jerry McCutcheon said the alleged shooting was checked out and it didn't happen. Sgt. Cook said he never shot anyone and never told anyone that he did.

Sgt. Cook has sued Robin and Phillip Robertson, Officer Kelley, Officer Blount, Nick Oprea ... another fired Lake Dallas officer who is suing the city ... and a former Lake Dallas council member for slander.

Sgt. Cook's defamation lawsuit was filed just before Mr. Kelley's case came to trial. As Officer Blount waited to testify in Mr. Kelley's action, Sgt. Cook told him he, too, was being sued for slander.

Sgt. Cook testified that he was not threatening Officer Blount. Sgt. Cook's attorney, Julius Staev, said the timing of the suit was “just coincidence.''

Controversy over Marcus Cook's performance began when he was in training, according to his trainer, former Lake Dallas Sgt. Nelda Oglesbee.

From the start, in March 1994, “he didn't think he had to obey the rules and regulations of the department.” she said. “When the chief and lieutenant repeatedly let him get by with it, it became clear he didn't have to follow them.”

Ms. Oglesbee said she made her complaints clear to her trainee. Officer Cook, she said, wrote a five-page memo complaining that she was harassing him, and threatening to sue her.

Sgt. Cook told The News lf that he got along fine with Sgt. Oglesbee. “If she had a problem with me, she never told me,” he said. Chief Ristagno declined to answer questions about Ms. Oglesbee's training of Sgt. Cook.

Ms. Oglesbee said she believes the memo contributed to her firing, although it was not given as the official reason. She sued the city for sex discrimination and won a $30,000 settlement.

“Nobody stopped Marcus. I tried. I lost my job,” she said. Sgt. Cook has given conflicting information over the years on his educational background.

He has said under oath that he has completed “almost four years of college study” toward a degree with the “School of Animal Science at Scranton University,” and that he was a few hours short of a bachelor of science degree.

On the witness stand a few weeks ago, he agreed that the Scranton correspondence school was not a university. He testified that he has about 16 hours of college credit. Most bachelor's degrees require a minimum of about 120 semester credit hours.

Chief Ristagno said his department does not require officers to have any college credit, “so I don't know why I would be concerned” about any discrepancies in Sgt. Cook's educational background.

The former colleagues who have criticized Sgt. Cook have blemishes on their own records, and possible reasons for resenting him. Officer Kelley was disciplined several times before complaining about Sgt. Cook and had been demoted before being fired. Phillip Robertson was fired from another department, but it was changed to a resignation following a lawsuit.

But a group selected for their impartiality have said they are concerned about the Lake Dallas Police Department and Marcus Cook.

A Denton County jury found that Lake Dallas was justified in firing Officer Kelley. Nonetheless, some jurors later told trial participants that Sgt. Cook worried them.

“I don't think any of us believed the [current] Lake Dallas police officers who testified,” said one juror, who asked not to be identified

Sgt. Cook “probably could turn out to be good, but he's too eager right now,” she said. “I'd be scared if he stopped me.”

The Never-ending Warehouse Sale