SEATTLE - The Island County prosecutor decided Thursday not to charge a mixed martial arts fighter who inflicted fatal injuries on 23-year-old Oak Harbor resident Chris Cooper during a Nov. 17 fight.
Island County prosecutor Greg Banks said that the MMA fighter acted in self-defense.
The decision was more bad news for Terry Cooper, who along with other family members, took his son off life support two weeks after the altercation.
Cooper told KIRO 7’s Chris Francis Wednesday night he still asks why his son’s death had to happen.
“You kind of have things planned ahead and then something like this happens. He was my only kid so now what do I do?” said Terry Cooper.
Police said that after leaving an Oak Harbor bar, Chris Cooper was walking behind Jason Ellis when the two exchanged words. During that walk, Cooper was recording video on his phone.
Video showed Ellis asking Chris Cooper “You got a beef with me?”
Then Chris Cooper put the phone in his pocket while the video continued to record.
Ellis, an MMA fighter, hit Chris Cooper, knocking him unconscious.
Banks said there was no evidence that Ellis hit Chris Cooper multiple times or while he was on the ground, unconscious.
Terry Cooper said he believes his son was hit while he was unconscious because doctors described the injuries as more severe than just a fall to the ground.
“The injury my son had was a very, very, severe injury typically seen in a head-on car collision,” said Terry Cooper.
But documents from the Island County Prosecutor said Chris Cooper was pursuing Ellis while recording with his iPhone. During the recording, Chris Cooper is heard whispering into the phone that he was going to "(expletive) this guy up."
“The video revealed that Mr. Ellis initially tried to diffuse the situation. Mr. Ellis assured Mr. Cooper that he had 'no beef' with him, and told him, 'We’re good, brother.' Mr. Cooper told Mr. Ellis that he was on his iPhone with a friend named Josh. Mr. Cooper told Mr. Ellis that the last time Cooper had seen Mr. Ellis, he believed Mr. Ellis had tried to fight Cooper and Josh," Banks said in a news release. "The confrontation escalated when Mr. Cooper said into the iPhone, 'Josh, hold on, I got this. Hold on, I’ll call you back.'"
Banks said the physical fight lasted for less than 5 seconds. Read the entire document from the prosecutor's office.
After the fight, Ellis left Cooper lying on the pavement until he was discovered about 8 minutes later by a newspaper delivery driver, the release from Banks said.
Two days later, Ellis called police and told a detective that he heard about Cooper's injuries and believed he may have been responsible. Ellis described the confrontation and said that Chris Cooper swung at him and missed. Ellis said he then quickly hit Chris Cooper in the head with a right hook.
According to Banks, Ellis said he left the area afterward because he was concerned Chris Cooper's friend might be on the way and was concerned that Chris Cooper might have a weapon.
Chris Cooper’s sister, Jessica Williams, told KIRO 7 in February, that as an MMA fighter, Ellis should be held accountable.
“He should have known he was capable of it whether he meant to or not. Whether you mean to run someone over with your car or not, you still did it,” said Williams.
Police said they have reports that someone across the street witnessed the fight but they have not been able to find that person.
Terry Cooper is hopeful someone will speak up.
“If someone has actually seen this, come forward and talk about it. That would be the physical evidence they need to proceed with this case at this time,” said Terry Cooper.
Banks said that although there were reports of a witness, police were unable to track down one by interviewing those who claimed to know of the witness.
"It appears that the claim of an eyewitness may have been fabricated by people trying to influence the investigation," said Banks.