For nearly two years, U.S. military members in uniform have prompted anger and resentment in James Dallas Wicker.
But Wicker says he feels differently after Kirtland Air Force Base Airman Calvin Cooper was found guilty in the wreck that killed the mother of his two children.
Cooper, 22, was found guilty of reckless driving, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide for hitting and killing 39-year-old Angelica Baca in March 2019 in Southeast Albuquerque.
Cooper’s trial by court martial began last week at Kirtland Air Force Base and concluded with a verdict Tuesday. Cooper opted to have the same panel of Air Force members who found him guilty determine his sentence. The eight-member panel, which is similar to a jury, will convene again Wednesday; at least six panelists must agree on Cooper’s sentence.
Wicker said he believes justice has been served.
“It has taken two years for me to not be angry every time I see a uniform or when someone mentions the base,” Wicker said Tuesday. “Today, I realized it’s the person who wears the uniform, and it’s not about the uniform.
“This doesn’t bring her back, but it’s now the start of a long healing process.”
Cooper and three other airmen left the base the evening of March 23, 2019, in Cooper’s 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX to see a movie. Cooper was driving about 60 mph in a 35-mph zone after turning onto Louisiana from Gibson, prosecutor Capt. Andrew Trejo said during opening statements.
Baca, meanwhile, was crossing Louisiana and was standing in between the double yellow lines in the median before attempting to cross to the other side. Cooper struck Baca, instantly killing her, and crashed into the nearby Rising Phoenix apartments.
Trejo had argued that Cooper was acting negligently due to the speed at which he was driving. He also said it was common for pedestrians to cross the street this way in this area.
But Capt. Victoria Clark, one of Cooper’s defense attorneys, said Baca was the one who was negligent by not using a crosswalk to cross a busy street.