LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – An attempted murder at a Lake Wales bar on July 10 ended with two victims and the shooter dead by his own hand. The incident is just one example of a rising trend of domestic violence cases across Florida.
Based on evidence and witness statements, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting was the result of a broken-off relationship. Kevin Cooper, 41, was upset that his girlfriend had left him and started dating someone new. PCSO says Cooper called and harassed her multiple times that night of the shooting, before going to the bar.
Around 8:30 p.m., Lake Wales police officers and Polk County Fire Rescue went to the Y’all Come Back Saloon on SR 60 East. They found Cooper and his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend on the ground, both with gunshot wounds.
Cooper’s ex-girlfriend was treated for a graze from a bullet by PCFR at the scene, and only suffered minor injuries according to the Sheriff’s Office. His male victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment of his two gunshot wounds and is in critical, but stable condition.
“Domestic violence is extremely serious, and often affects more than just the two people involved. Luckily, in this instance, one of the victims was not critically injured – and we’re hopeful the other victim will survive. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help. There are resources available to help victims of domestic violence,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Cooper died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after shooting the male victim.
According to a release from PCSO, Cooper had a history of domestic violence criminal charges, and others. In all, Cooper’s criminal history included 11 felonies, among them were charges for domestic violence battery, domestic violence kidnapping and domestic violence stalking.
The Florida Department of Children and Families reports that in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, 13,250 survivors of domestic violence and their children sheltered at domestic violence centers.
FLDCF reminds those looking at the data from FDLE that “domestic violence crimes are not always reported as such, and thus, may be underrepresented.”
An FLDCF analysis shows that the majority of victims are female.
Statistics from a hotline the department operates show that 70% of callers are looking for help “directly related to intimate partner violence, familial violence, sexual violence, or stalking.”
The latest available FLDCF annual report, produced by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, states that roughly 19% of Florida’s homicides in 2018 resulted from domestic violence.
In that same year, 64,573 arrests for domestic violence related crimes were made by law enforcement in Florida.
In 2020 alone, Polk County saw 4,674 total domestic violence related offenses, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 700 of those charges were for aggravated assault, one for stalking, and 3,858 for simple assault, making up the majority of the charges last year.
Compared to Polk County’s 2019 numbers, the total offenses only increased slightly, from 4,633. Simple Assaults actually fell from 3,927 to the 3,858 in 2020. 2018 was a year with fewer charges but more simple assaults.
In 2017, Polk County saw 4,822 total domestic violence related offenses reported, an increase from the year before, when 2016 had 4,457 reported offenses. Still, 2016 was at the end of a two-year drop, where 2014 and 2015 saw 4,939 and 4,935 reported offenses, respectively.
The number of reported offenses increasing and decreasing often fluctuate, and don’t necessarily match the overall state trends.
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FDLE reports that simple assaults made up 80% of all domestic violence reported offenses in 2018, the most recent year the data trend analyses are available from. The FDLE data shows the two most common relationships between victims and the offenders were spouses and co-habitants, or people living in the same home or single dwelling unit.
The Department of Children and Families has a hotline for domestic violence victims.
According to the hotline report data from FLDCF, 40% of survivors ask for information about local or statewide domestic violence services and systems, and 24% of survivors request emergency shelter.
In Tampa Bay, the state data shows that 4% of the callers in the state come from Pinellas County and 3% from Hillsborough County. Call data was not available for Polk County, from the report provided by the state.
If you need help, you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or dial Florida Relay 711.
Florida Domestic Violence Legal Hotline provides attorneys to answer survivors’ legal questions regarding injunctions for protection, divorce, custody, housing, immigration and other civil legal matters at no cost to survivors. The hotline attorneys are available 8 am – 4 pm EST Monday – Friday. Survivors can call toll free at 1-800-500-1119 ext. 3.
Interpreters are available for survivors with limited English proficiency.