73-year-old grandfather dies in attempted robbery in parking lot of Hyde Park strip mall

73-year-old grandfather dies in attempted robbery in parking lot of Hyde Park strip mall
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Keinika Carlton woke up from a nap Wednesday afternoon and noticed her dad was late. They were supposed to meet at 1:30 p.m. for an appointment, she said.

A while later, her older sister called to tell her she’d talked to police, and their dad was at the University of Chicago Medical Center. When she got to the hospital, Carlton was told her dad had died.

Keith Cooper, 73, died Wednesday afternoon after he was hit in the head during an attempted robbery in the parking lot of a Hyde Park strip mall, according to Chicago police.

Cooper was approached by suspects in the parking lot at 53rd Street and Kimbark Avenue — just a few blocks from former President Barack Obama’s Chicago home — about 12:36 p.m., police said.

The suspect demanded his property while he was at his car, a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, police said. During the confrontation, he was hit in the head and transported to the medical center, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Two persons of interest were being questioned by detectives at Area 1 police headquarters.

Carlton, 38, wiped away tears as she talked about how much she’ll miss talking to and seeing her dad, a loving father and grandfather.

“He didn’t deserve this. I mean nobody does,” she said. “This wasn’t necessary. Honestly, I wish they just waited till he went into the store and took the car. Because at least he would still be here. We can get another car. I can’t get another dad.”

Police did not call it a carjacking, but the family understood the car was what the suspects were trying to steal.

Cooper’s family said he was a Vietnam War veteran who loved jazz and science fiction, including the “Star Trek” TV series. Cooper and Carlton shared a love for scary movies, which they watched together, Carlton said.

Curtis Carlton, Keinika’s husband of 18 years, said Cooper was like a second father to him. He was also Cooper’s personal barber.

“He welcomed me with open arms just like I was his son,” he said.

Curtis Carlton said he’ll miss cutting Cooper’s hair and watching sports with his father-in-law.

Cooper was born and raised in Chicago and always had the game on his TV whenever a Chicago team was playing, Curtis Carlton said.

Cooper drove trucks and sold jewelry and books before retiring and driving for a ride-share, said Alyna Carlton, 17, Cooper’s granddaughter.

“In his home he has this whole library section,” she said. “It’s just like tons of books from back to the ’70s. He keeps those books.”

Alyna said her grandfather would give her mostly science fiction and Black history books, or anything he thought she might enjoy. He encouraged her to read, and he read a lot himself, she said. He was also starting to help her research colleges.

“He was my best friend,” Alyna said. “When he found out my mom was pregnant with me he was excited, and he was just so ready for me.”

Cooper was driving a Lyft to earn a little extra money, his family said. They said he lived not far from the strip mall and was likely headed to Hyde Park Produce, where he and the whole family get their groceries.

Red and yellow police tape surrounded several parked cars — Cooper’s among them — in the crowded parking lot Wednesday afternoon, as patrons walked to and from a CVS pharmacy, a Leona’s pizzeria, a grocery store and several other businesses. Police, including at least one evidence investigator, milled around the crime scene as curious passersby looked on.

A Leona’s employee, who declined to be identified for the story, said about 20 or 25 people were around Cooper as he was unresponsive on the ground.

“I thought he might have passed out during the heat,” the employee said.

Two or three people tried performing CPR on him, with at least one person appearing to be counting and another doing chest compressions, the employee recalled.

At one point, he said, “Everybody was really close until the police was like, ‘OK, everybody, let’s get back.’”

“I just know that he was unresponsive the whole time,” he said. “Even when the ambulance came, he was unresponsive.”

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