A North Carolina man was arrested Monday evening and charged with firing a gun into the Greensboro, North Carolina, Armed Forces Career Center, according to local police. An Army official said the incident happened after James Alexander Cooper learned earlier in the day of his disqualification from joining the Army. At least six people were in the center when gunshots rang out, Marine Corps and Navy officials told Military Times.
Capt. Ryan Lowcher, a 4th Marine Corps District spokesperson, told Military Times that four Marines were present in the building at the time of the shooting, and Terri Russell, a spokesperson for Navy Recruiting Command, confirmed that two Navy recruiters were also present at the time of the shooting.
“No Army personnel were present at the time of the incident,” said Kelli Ward, U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s director of public affairs. Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman Leslie Brown said no Air Force recruiters were present due to COVID-19 teleworking restrictions.
“No Marines were hurt in the incident,” said Lowcher. A source familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said no Navy personnel were hurt, either.
Cooper, 36, stood outside the door and started shooting at around 6:20 p.m., according to Ron Glenn, public information officer for the Greensboro Police Department. Glenn said the center “was occupied at the time of the shooting,” and that Cooper was arrested close to the scene.
The troops were able to successfully barricade behind bulletproof benches and cubicles, said Russell, the Navy Recruiting Command spokesperson.
Images of the scene first emerged on the Recruiter Times Facebook page. A bulletproof office cubicle panel appeared to stop at least one round that made it through two sets of doors. The source familiar with the incident said at least one Marine was sitting in the cubicle when the shooting began.
“The suspect in custody had applied to join the Army but was disqualified,” said Ward, the USAREC spokeswoman. Ward did not disclose Cooper’s name, but Glenn, the Greensboro Police spokesman, and court records confirmed he is in police custody for the shooting.
Ward did not specify why Cooper was disqualified from enlistment, but he has several pending criminal charges across the state that certainly would preclude him from enlisting. A source familiar with Cooper’s efforts to join the military said he had repeatedly tried to enlist at the Greensboro station for more than a year.
The senior enlisted leader of USAREC’s Raleigh battalion, Command Sgt. Maj. Jarrad Putnam, downplayed the incident in a public comment on the Recruiter Times Facebook page, saying, “Everyone is fine, it was after hours, no soldiers were present no Soldiers were harmed.”
Cooper remains listed as a Greensboro Jail Central inmate. According to court records, he is charged with firing a weapon into an occupied building, a class E felony in North Carolina, in addition to six misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and a misdemeanor concealed-carry violation.
His arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 7 in Guilford County. Beyond charges stemming from Monday’s shooting, Cooper has separate charges for felony vandalism, felony theft, felony forgery, felony possession of a stolen vehicle, felony larceny, and felony breaking and entering. Cooper was also cited for a hit and run in 2019.
This story has been updated with additional information from the Marine Corps.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.