Student pedestrian fatality

Student Agustus Cooper Jr. was involved in a pedestrian fatality accident. He passed away on Saturday, April 28 after being in critical condition. 

The Hammond Police Department received the call on Wednesday, April 25 shortly after 11 p.m. and reported to the scene of the incident on West University Avenue in front of Rende’s Quick Stop #3. 

According to the driver of the car that hit Cooper, a witness and video from Rende’s, Cooper walked in front of a car while looking down. Though the driver was following the speed limit and braked upon noticing Cooper, the car struck Cooper.

“He was headed towards Rende’s and walked across the roadway, crossed both eastbound lanes, got into the turn lane, and there was some video from Rende’s that caught the actual impact when you see him step into the left travel lane,” said HPD Lieutenant Randy Miller. “He stepped right out in front of a westbound car.”

Peter Ring worked at Rende’s on the night of the incident. He described his perspective of the events.

“I had a few customers in here, and the next thing I heard, something ran on the ground like it was being dragged,” said Ring. “I didn’t see nothing, but there was a guy here in a white shirt. He ran outside, ‘Oh, guy got hit.’ We both came outside, and I looked. I got scared ‘cause I saw him right on the street with his face down.”

Ring believes the speed limit in that area should be reduced to avoid recurrences.

“Why put this at 45?” said Ring. “There’s a school over there. All of the students, some of them can’t drive or too tired to walk all the way. They’re gonna cross, make it easier. Why not make it 35 or 15?”

Sophomore communication major Alexis Minor met Cooper when they attended Baton Rouge Magnet High School. She recounted her experience with him.

“I often saw him working in the market in the student union,” said Minor. “Visiting the market during the day just to go mess with him was a highlight of my day. He was always open to conversation, and there was never a dull moment. Unfortunately, those visits to that market will never be the same. I still walk past it sometimes hoping to see him there and that his death is not real.”

Former student Alieyah Johnson knew Cooper since high school. She shared what she misses the most about his personality.

“My best friend didn’t deserve what happened to him,” said Johnson. “His family is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, which is where I believe Agustus got his strength. His devotion to his church and his studies was one a person would envy. I envy. Every day I wake up, I have to tell myself that he’s gone because it’s just unbelievable to think that in just a second someone you love can be taken away from you.”

Director of the University Police Department Harold Todd encouraged students to use the tunnel west of Rende’s rather than cross the street.

“Even if it’s not very much traffic, just get into the habit of doing it whenever you go over there,” said Todd. “So it just gets to be second nature and they’ll always use that tunnel just because it’s so dangerous. A car traveling 45 miles an hour, it can come up to you pretty quick, and you just don’t realize how quick a car can come up to you at 45 miles an hour, especially if you’re not paying attention.”

According to Miller, no pedestrian incidents such as the one with Cooper have occurred in that area for “quite some time.” Miller stressed the importance of being attentive when crossing the street.

“Students walking out in the roadway, they don’t ever look to see if there’s anything coming,” said Miller. “Most of them are on their cell phone. They’re looking at their cell phone, and it’s like they have this mentality of, ‘I’m in the road. You’ve got to stop.’ They don’t have the right of way. They’re stepping out, eventually it’s gonna happen again.”