The man suspected of gunning down the brother of former Lakers star Michael Cooper at a park in Pasadena on Saturday also has been charged with attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm in two other recent incidents in the city, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Aaron Miguel Conell, 24, was charged Monday in the fatal shooting of Mickey Cooper, 64, at Washington Park, the same site where he allegedly shot another man in the neck. Authorities have charged Conell with one count of attempted murder in the incident, which occurred around 2 a.m. on Oct. 29. Officers responded to gunshots and found a man with life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Seven days later, at around 9:30 p.m., Conell allegedly walked up to a car at a Pasadena gas station and pointed a gun at a man in the driver’s seat. He is charged with one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm in that incident.
Conell was arrested Saturday, the same day he’s accused of killing Cooper at the park that is “10 houses away” from where Michael Cooper, 67, said he and his younger brother grew up.
“The reason my brother was there is that it was a safe haven for him, a place where he felt comfortable and safe,” Michael Cooper said. “And it had been until that tragic night.”
Conell faces more than 50 years to life in state prison if convicted on each count of murder, attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm. His bail has been set at $4.25 million.
Pasadena Police Department detectives said at a news conference Wednesday that Conell also is a suspect in two additional shootings.
Police said that none of the incidents are connected and that Conell — who has never been convicted of a felony — has no gang affiliation, and seemed to commit the alleged violent acts without a motive.
“Aaron Conell is diabolically evil, that’s the only motive we’ve come up with so far,” said Pasadena police Lt. Keith Gomez, who’s in charge of the robbery-homicide unit.
Michael Cooper expressed his appreciation to the Pasadena Police Department for the swift identification and arrest of Conell. He said he’d been part of the Pasadena community his entire life.
“This was the park where my brother and I would play basketball in the late ’60s and through the ’70s and ’80s,” said Cooper, who won five NBA championships during his 12-year career with the Lakers that ended in 1990.
He said Mickey was a gentle, loving person who was addicted to drugs. Mickey would sleep at Washington Park because it was so familiar to him, Michael Cooper said.
Cooper said his brother was welcome to stay with him or at their grandmother’s home but that he often preferred the park.
“We are going to miss Mickey, but I like to feel he’s in a better place,” Cooper said. “My brother had an addiction he just couldn’t shake. Over the last year, we tried to get him a lot of help. He may have appeared homeless, but he wasn’t. He had a home up in Altadena at my grandmother’s house.
“I tried to bring my brother to my house several times. But that’s still not a reason for him not to go to that park, go to sleep and wake up and find himself in this situation.”
Michael and Mickey were raised in Pasadena primarily by their grandmother, Ardessie Butler, after their parents, Marshall and Jean, divorced when the boys were young. Jean, who had 10 siblings, worked as a registered nurse, and the boys grew up in a hectic household.
They attended Pasadena High School and Michael was drafted by the Lakers out of the University of New Mexico. He was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1986-87 and later became an assistant coach with the Lakers, the head coach of the WNBA Sparks, the head coach of the USC women’s basketball team and head coach of the Culver City High boys’ basketball team.
“I want to express deep condolences to the family of the individual who died and unwavering support for the wounded victim,” L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said. “These violent senseless acts have no place in our communities, especially at a public park where families could be present.
“We continue in our commitment to combating gun violence and will vigorously pursue justice for the victims and their families, while ensuring the safety and security of all of our residents.”
Gomez said that a 9 mm semiautomatic firearm was recovered from Conell’s vehicle, and that evidence indicates it is the gun used in both Washington Park shootings. City officials said the park is relatively safe during daylight hours but that it has become increasingly dangerous at night.
Justin Jones, the Pasadena City Council member who represents the Washington Park area, said he grew up a block from the park and that “recently residents have expressed concern about activities occurring in the park.”
City and law enforcement officials have scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss ways to improve safety at the park Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Catalina Library in Pasadena. Michael Cooper said that as a native of the city he deeply appreciates the efforts of law enforcement and that Mickey being murdered for seemingly no reason is difficult to process.
“I remember back in the 80s when we won, we had a championship parade here,” Cooper said. “And today I stand here [grieving] … Mickey didn’t bother anybody. He loved everybody.”