MANSFIELD, Ohio – Mark Cooper wasn’t worried one bit about his safety Thursday when he decided to tackle an escaped Mansfield prisoner inside of a Richland County Store.
“I’m confident enough in my strength that once I grab a hold of somebody like that, they’re not going to get back up,” Cooper said.
Exhibit A is the surveillance video from inside the Olivesburg General Store, which shows Cooper putting James Myers in a full nelson, lifting his feet off the ground and then slamming him to the floor.
Cooper, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 320 pounds, then pinned down Myers for several minutes until troopers arrived. Two other customers tied up Myers with twine.
Myers, who is serving a life sentence for raping a Summit County woman in 2010, was last seen prior to the 9 p.m. July 3 head count at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.
Cooper, a 45-year-old machine operator at Sabin and Robbins in Mansfield, isn’t the type of guy who wants or thinks he deserves attention.
He believes his impulse to tackle an escaped sexual predator was just the right thing to do.
“Just keeping everybody safe and keeping people like him off the streets,” he said.
Cooper, wearing an American flag T-shirt, walked into the store with his wife and son to get some ice cream.
He noticed Myers standing at the counter asking for a phone and a phone book.
“I knew it was him as soon as I saw him,” Cooper said.
His next move was to go back to his car, grab his cell phone and call 911.
As Myers appeared to be getting change from a candy bar purchase, Cooper moved in for the takedown.
“I made sure my wife and son were away from him and I just walked back over there and threw him to the ground,” he said.
Prison officials have not said how Myers escaped. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesperson Ricky Seyfang said Myers is now back in the same prison. He did not change any facial features during his 20-hours of freedom, she said. Myers is expected to face additional escape charges.
Cooper said Myers said very little while he was pinned down. The only request made was to let him go.
“I told him until the state troopers got there, he wasn’t going anywhere because still at that point, I didn’t know if he had a gun or not,” he said.
Workers at the store also recognized Myers. His mug shot was taped to the front counter.
Greg Gallaway, 20, was scooping ice cream and spotted Myers in the store. Gallaway made eye contact with Cooper as if to say, ‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?'”
“We were on the same page. He said, ‘I think that’s the guy too,'” Gallaway said.
Cooper doesn’t consider himself a hero, but it’s clear the store workers think he is.
“The guy wasn’t moving at all down there. It was just a sense of safety when he had him down there,” Gallaway said.