YORKVILLE — On the morning of Jan. 14, Racine County Sheriff’s Deputy Karen Hernandez and Festival Foods employee Christopher Dustman worked together to save two lives.
On Friday, the Racine County Sheriff’s Office honored them for their quick action that day, tending to the wounds of Jeff and Cheryl Coopman, who were hit by a vehicle whose driver lost control in the Village Center shopping center parking lot, 5740 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant, while fleeing a traffic stop.
“Rescue personnel advised that both of your actions undoubtedly saved the victim’s life,” Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said during a press conference on Friday morning. “Your clear thinking and composure prevented the victim from succumbing to her injuries.”
The Coopmans both suffered life-threatening injuries that day. Cheryl Coopman’s left arm and leg were both severed. Jeff Coopman’s left leg was amputated from the knee down. He also suffered two broken hips and internal injuries.
Dustman quickly took off his belt and secured it around Cheryl Coopman’s leg. Hernandez then put a tourniquet on the woman’s arm.
“She was coherent at the time,” Hernandez said.
But Cheryl Coopman wasn’t talking. And she was in shock.
Citizens help out
Recognizing the belt was not tight enough, they asked other citizens for items to use to stop the bleeding. One provided a bungee cord that was tied around the victim’s leg to control blood loss.
After assessing Cheryl Coopman’s needs, Hernandez checked on Jeff Coopman.
“He was visibly in pain but laying there still,” Hernandez said.
Both Coopmans were transported to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.
During Friday’s press conference, his sister, Sandra Coopman, thanked everyone who helped that day, as well as the community for its support in helping her brother and sister-in-law.
“I can’t imagine coming across an incident such as this and reacting the way you all did,” she said. “I’m sure everyone involved has suffered some kind of trauma themselves.
“I know myself, I’ve had a hard time knowing how it has affected each and every one of you and that’s why I’m here today as I want to express my gratitude not just for me but for my brother and his wife who could not be here today due to their injuries.”
She said her brother is in good spirits.
“He’s still in a lot of pain, but he’s fighting through it all and working very hard in recovery,” she said.
Cheryl Coopman is making slow progress, she said. She has started to open her eyes and track light, which has made both the family and doctors hopeful.
Hernandez recalls the incident
The incident began when Hernandez attempted a traffic stop on a vehicle with plates that didn’t match its description.
The driver, later identified as 17-year-old Isaiah Degroot, continued into the Kohl’s parking lot, at 5500 Washington Ave. in Mount Pleasant, after Hernandez turned on her emergency lights. She then activated her siren.
“He did not pull over, at which point he slammed on the gas and took off,” she said.
After Hernandez noticed how many people were in the parking lot, she turned off her siren in hopes that Degroot would slow down. But he didn’t. He struck the Coopmans after losing control of the vehicle in front of Festival Foods at the west end of the shopping center.
Degroot fled the scene, but was soon apprehended. He has been charged with 27 felonies in relation to the incident.
Schmaling presented both Hernandez and Dustman with certificates for their actions on Jan. 14.
“I feel great getting the award but, again, I’m very upset with what happened,” Hernandez said.
She said she has been having a hard time knowing that the Coopmans suffered such terrible injuries following her attempted traffic stop.
“I pray for the victims and their families every day,” Hernandez said.
Festival Foods donations continue
Festival Foods also provided a statement on Friday.
“Our sincerest condolences and wishes go out to the Coopman family as they continue to heal from this tragedy,” the statement said. “Our priority is to support them as they face the challenges and the recovery process ahead. We’re proud and yet grateful for the support in which this community has come together.”
So far more than $6,000 has been collected for the family through a donation fund at the Festival Foods store. Donations will continue to be collected at the customer service desk to help fund the couple’s recovery.
Schmaling spoke about the alleged perpetrator of the incident.
“After it occurred, this individual — who was in a stolen car, with a gun in the car, with drugs in the car, fleeing from a law enforcement officer — after he caused this terrible tragedy, the coward ran away,” Schmaling said.
In contrast, the sheriff spoke about how the community came together to support the couple.
“We’re also proud today,” Schmaling said. “We’re proud that law enforcement worked together very closely with our community.”
“I feel great getting the award but, again, I’m very upset with what happened. I pray for the victims and their families every day.” Karen Hernandez, Racine County sheriff’s deputy