Philly’s Larry Cooper Tried to Stop a Robbery. He Went to Jail Instead. A Court Says That’s OK.

Philly "Good Samaritan" spent 77 days in jail. The court says it shares his frustration, but that the arrest was legit.

Larry Cooper isn’t just an innocent man — the Philadelphia man is a Good Samaritan. That, at least, is what a federal appeals court says. But that wasn’t enough to keep him out of jail.

According to court records: When Cooper left Jefferson University Hospital one day in April 2012 — his wife had just undergone surgery — he was approached by a stranger asking directions. While he was helping, two men came up and robbed the stranger. Cooper tried chasing the robbers down — and when that failed, gave his cell phone to the victim to call police.

The victim told police that Cooper was one of the robbers. The police then arrested Cooper, despite his denials of being involved in the crime. Unable to post bail, he spent 77 days in jail before going free.

Last year, a federal court rejected Cooper’s lawsuit challenging the arrest, saying Police Officer Brian Cash properly relied on eyewitness testimony to take Cooper into custody. Last week, a federal appeals court agreed, even as it characterized Cooper as a “Good Samaritan.”

“Although we share Mr. Cooper’s frustration with the way events unfolded, we have no choice but to agree with the District Court that Officer Cash had probable cause to arrest him,” Appellate Judge Thomas Ambro wrote for the court.

The court’s decision was released last week. It was first reported by the Pennsylvania Record.

“The central question is whether Officer Cash had probable cause to arrest Mr. Cooper for the robbery,” Ambro wrote. Eyewitness testimony usually meets that test, according to court precedent.

“Mr. Cooper has not presented any evidence that Officer Cash knew of independent exculpatory evidence. Instead, he merely asserts that the Officer was wrong to reject his version of events without doing any additional investigation,” Ambro wrote, concluding: “None of Mr. Cooper’s allegations have ‘fatally undermined’ the identification.”

See the appellate court decision below:

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