County remembers No. 76

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Former sheriff called Cosper ‘Teddy Bear’ because of his heart

The hearts of employees at the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, and of many people throughout the county, are flying half mast this week after the loss of the man behind badge No. 76.

Master Sgt. Carl Cosper Jr., 56, of Pineville, died Friday when his patrol vehicle, en route to a domestic disturbance call in Seligman, struck a school bus turning on to Highway 37 at Farm Road 1060.

To those who knew him, the loss has been gut-wrenching.

A firearms instructor, concealed carry instructor and leader in the office’s active shooter training, Cosper enjoyed woodworking, cooking, working on guns, spending time with his dog, Bubba, and working on his roadster. According to Mick Epperly, former Barry County sheriff, he enjoyed one other thing — his job.

“He worked with the county on and off for 15 years,” Epperly said. “He was an honest guy, and I called him ‘Teddy Bear,’ because he had a heart of gold. He would go with us on search warrants and say, ‘Hey sheriff, get back, don’t get hurt and let me in there.’ That’s just the kind of guy he was.

“Every week, Carl would come shake my hand and thank me for his job because he knew a lot of people were out of work. Even when Rob Evenson was sheriff in McDonald County, Carl stayed on here because he liked the job and the people and working in Barry County. He stuck through the thick and thin, even when we had just a few deputies and cars, and he could have easily gone to a job that paid more.”

Gary Davis, who took over the sheriff post in January, said even in just a few months, he could tell Cosper was a go-getter.

“Carl was one of those guys who may not have been a boss, but was a leader,” he said. “He led by example. Over the past three months I got to know him, and he was a rock in this office. He was a guy you could go to and ask for advice, and most of the time, he was right.”

Davis first met Cosper when he had to complete firearms training as a reserve deputy.

“He was a good instructor,” Davis said. “He taught us and just about every department in the county except for Monett. The citizens have lost a valuable asset, a good community man dedicated to the people.”

Extending past his badge, Epperly said Cosper was a family man, as he heard Cosper numerous times on the phone tell his wife he loved her.

“We would make dinner together and I got to know his wife and his mother,” Epperly said. “When we’d barbecue at the office, Carl would always pitch in his part or more.”

Cosper’s nature can be best-exemplified by a piece of his woodworking that has lived on, one that brought out emotions from the retired sheriff.

“We’d talked about having a sheriff sign at the office like you’d see in the old westerns,” Epperly said. “One day I showed up, and there it was out front hanging as you walk up the steps. He said whenever I leave, he made it for me and I should take it.

“After all the packing and everything, I left it there for a while. They just took it down Sunday and brought it to me on Monday and said Carl wanted me to have it. It make me emotional, but Carl and all the other deputies and staff mean a lot to me. I pray for that office because they are my brothers, and they put their life on the line every day. I’m sure he’s smiling down at [the sign] now.”

Davis said Cosper’s love for family extended into his work, as calls where women or children were involved were where he shined.

“He did his job thoroughly and cared deeply about the kids,” Davis said. “If anyone was picking on a woman or a child, he took that super seriously because he wanted to protect people who could not protect themselves. He was such a great guy, I’ve had people who he arrested and put in jail come into the office wanting to know when his funeral is. That’s the kind of respect he had for people.”

Davis said in the near future, he plans to ask the Barry County Commission to retire Cosper’s badge, No. 76, and he intends to present the proclamation and badge to Cosper’s widow, Angela Cosper.

According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol report, Cosper was driving his 2016 Ford Explorer southbound on Highway 37 when an eastbound Southwest school district bluebird school bus, being driven by William Reeves, 60, of Seligman, attempted a left turn, causing Cosper’s vehicle to strike the bus.

Cosper was pronounced dead by Dr. K. D. Cox at Mercy Hospital in Cassville at 12:09 p.m. Reeves was not injured, and no children were on the school bus at the time of the wreck.

Cosper was not wearing a safety device, and Reeves was. The patrol vehicle was totaled, and the school bus sustained moderate damage.

Sgt. John Lueckenhoff, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, one of seven troopers assisting at the scene, said Cosper was en route to a domestic disturbance call east of Seligman. Lueckenhoff said Cosper’s emergency lights were on, and the siren switch was in the on position but not working following the crash.

“The siren was off after the crash, but the switch was on,” he said. “The crash team will do an investigation to reconstruct the wreck. That takes about 30-60 days.”

Lueckenhoff said Reeves has not receive a ticket at this point, but if there were charges, they would likely be only traffic violations.

Cosper was born on March 30, 1961, in Tulsa, Okla., to Carl Thomas Cosper, Sr. and Sylvia Ann (Peak) Cosper. He married Angela Lewis on Sept. 5, 1986, in Pineville.

Cosper began his career in law enforcement in 1994, where he worked several years at the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office. He was a master sergeant deputy sheriff with Barry County Sheriff’s Department for 10 years.

Along with his other hobbies, Cosper enjoyed making cedar chests for the Angel Tree Project in Cassville. He also made cedar chests, tables and nightstands for numerous friends and family.

He was preceded in death by his father, Carl T. Cosper Sr. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Angela Cosper, of the home; his son, Robert Allen Cosper and wife, Jennifer Sunny Kendall, of Neosho; his mother, Sylvia Ann Cosper, of Pineville; his brothers, Brian Cosper and wife, Tammy, Sherrill Dee Cosper, both of Pineville; sister, Jillian Smith and husband, Buddy, of Rogers, Ark.; and many nieces and nephews, along with a host of other relatives and friends who will dearly miss him.

Cosper will be laid to rest this week, with visitation today (Wednesday) from 4-8 p.m. at Ozark Funeral Home, located at 100 Spring St. in Anderson, and the funeral service on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Grace Life Church, located at 258 Royce St. in Anderson.

Pastor Jamey Cope will officiate. Cremation will follow the service, and there will be no graveside services.

Davis said deputies from surrounding counties will be responding to emergency calls in Barry County during the visitation Thursday and nearly all day on Friday.

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