New Madrid County, Mo. (KFVS) -A family commitment to public service and the greater good is at the heart of the show “Blue Bloods.” It is also in the hearts of a local family lead by one of the most respected law enforcement officers in southeast Missouri.
“In my mind, nobody...nobody’s gonna mess with him.”
Trey Cooper was talking about his dad, Missouri State Highway Patrol Master Sergeant Bud Cooper. Widely acknowledged as one of the best investigators in the region, Cooper is not one to tout his own accomplishments. His three children, all dedicated to public service, are clearly his greatest.
“I think they’re big-hearted, very smart, very meticulous,” Cooper said of his sons and daughter. “And caring to a fault.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Trey Cooper is a sheriff’s deputy in Pemiscot County. Everybody knows he’s Bud Cooper’s son.
“One of the unit guys has donned me with the nickname ‘Bud Light.’ So that gets thrown around from time to time,” Trey says with a laugh. And despite his father’s insistence that he take on a safer profession, Trey wouldn’t have it.
“When you develop a skill set and a way of thinking that you could only develop in that household growing up, when you get old enough to do it you feel guilty doing anything else,” Trey said.
Twenty-three-year-old Ethan Cooper is in law school right now with plans on becoming a federal or state prosecutor.
When asked if he was surprised his youngest child would go that route, Cooper said no.
“I’ve tried to talk to him about where there’s more money in other areas of being an attorney,” he replied. "But he’s like the other two. He’s not going to hear of it.”
The third Cooper child, 37-year-old Natalie, came to the family from foster care at the age of 15.
“Our lives intermingling turned out to be one of the greatest things to ever happen to me,” she said.
“It was probably the best change of my life,” her father added.
Natalie Cooper McKnight now serves as a deputy juvenile officer in the 33rd circuit and is married to a Sikeston Department of Public Safety officer.
“It just always interested me, I think, because of his job and what he did. I wanted to go that route too,” she said of her career choice.
Natalie remembered being worried about her dad, whose role as head of criminal investigations put him on the toughest, most dangerous cases week in and week out.
“He’d be out working like two, three, four days at a time,” Natalie recalled. “With no sleep, you know. So yeah, we worried a lot.”
But Trey said he always marveled at how his dad juggled that massive workload and his dedication to family.
“And I’d be playing baseball and look over and see him on the phone standing at the fence,” Trey recalled when he was still in high school.
Bud Cooper also played a role in Trey’s first murder case. In April 2014, a 60-year-old man had been found shot to death inside his burning Portageville home. The state’s lead investigator and the young sheriff’s deputy found themselves outside a suspect’s home, looking for a house number for a search warrant.
“As we’re walking up on foot, he actually comes outside carrying what we later learned would be the murder weapon and some other evidence,” Trey recalled.
“That was just typical of not only police work but my career of how something so routine can go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds,” Bud said of the encounter.
The man they arrested would later plead guilty and is now serving a life sentence.
“It was so satisfying to be able to do it and do it with my son," the elder Cooper said with a smile. "It was awesome.”
There are people out there who lead. And people out there who serve. It’s clear Bud Cooper’s more than three decades of public service paved the way for his three children.
“It’s amazing,” Bud Cooper said of his children’s dedication to public service. “I think for them to do it, knowing the cost before they get in. And doing it. And doing it as well as they do. It’s very gratifying.”