Mount Carmel Police Chief Mike Campbell, left, and Officer George Copas. Jeff Bobo photo.
MOUNT CARMEL — Officer George Copas could have, and probably should have, taken the life of a woman who pointed a gun at his head and caused a six-hour standoff with police last week, according to Mount Carmel Police Chief Mike Campbell.
Campbell told the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday that Copas saved three lives during the Aug. 19 standoff: the suspect, her elderly disabled mother and his own.
During Monday’s BMA meeting, Copas received a commendation from Campbell for his actions during that standoff, as well as a standing ovation from everyone who attended the meeting.
On Aug. 19 shortly before 6 p.m., Kathleen Maschke arrived at the Mount Carmel Police Department and reported that she had been assaulted by her sister, Joy Lee Cox, 54, at the residence Cox shares with their mother at 226 Oak St. in Mount Carmel.
Apparently Cox became angry when her sister told her she was now the power of attorney for their 78-year-old mother, Lena Smith, who is in poor health.
Copas then went to 226 Oak St. to investigate the domestic assault complaint and was met in the driveway by Cox. She allegedly approached the cruiser, produced a nine-shot .22 caliber revolver and pointed it at Copas’ head.
According to an MCPD report filed by Lt. Kevin Ewing, Cox then told Copas, “Don’t get out of your car. I’m not going to jail.”
“Cox then placed the gun to her own head and walked into the residence,” Ewing stated in his report. “Seconds after she entered the residence Copas heard a gunshot. Copas and another female, Lena Smith, were in close proximity to where the gunshot was fired.”
Campbell told the Times-News on Tuesday that Smith, who was sitting on the porch art that time, suffers from dementia. Copas moved Smith to safety and then called for assistance.
Officers from Church Hill, Hawkins County and the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Team arrived at the scene.
At one point during the six-hour standoff, the Tactical Team entered the residence and encountered Cox in a hallway. She reportedly held the gun to her head and screamed “shoot me.”
Cox also allegedly screamed at officers that she would go to hell if she killed herself and she wanted them to kill her.
Campbell said the Tactical Team attempted to neutralize Cox using a non-lethal weapon, and she was shot with a bean bag. But Cox didn’t go down, didn’t drop her weapon and retreated to a back bedroom.
During the next five hours Cox allegedly fired the remaining eight shots in her revolver, two of which were allegedly intentionally fired through walls in the direction of police officers.
The other six shots were allegedly fired in random directions, including the ceiling and floor.
Shortly after midnight, after her gun was out of ammunition, Cox reportedly threw her gun down and was taken into custody by the Tactical Team.
Ewing stated in his report that she had an odor of alcohol about her and appeared under the influence.
Cox was charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder, seven counts of felony reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and possession of a handgun by an intoxicated person.
She remains held at the Hawkins County jail without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 4.
“Without drawing his weapon, he talked an armed person down. And believe me, under different circumstances Officer Copas would have drawn his weapon,” Campbell told the BMA on Tuesday. “Under these circumstances, he didn’t have the opportunity to draw his weapon. He was faced with an armed person with a gun to his head before he knew it. Through his experience, through his training, he knew what to do. Three lives were saved that night including the lady that caused all of the grief.”
Campbell added, “She could have perished that night also. Officer Copas could have, and probably should have, taken her life.”