Coffee shop worker serves his last cappuccino

Michelle Moriarity

In a smoky haze of rave music, whirring espresso machines and idle conversation at a campus area coffee shop, one University student’s personal rage turned violent Friday night.
Rain Cooper, a senior in cultural studies and comparative literature, plead guilty to the assault of Damon Smith, a sophomore in the Carlson School of Management.
Cooper is being held without bail at the Hennepin County jail.
“I don’t know how it happened,” said Sera Valdez, one of Cooper’s co-workers. “Rain is normally a bit moody, but I didn’t think it would go this far.”
According to the police report, Cooper had been in a “blue funk” Friday evening, storming at Gen-X patrons who complained about the quality of the music and espresso drinks.
Valdez said Cooper’s mood was no different than usual.
“He yells and rants but it doesn’t normally scare people away,” she said. “I think sometimes the pressure of his courses and personal angst get a little too strong.”
At approximately 11 p.m. Friday, Smith approached the counter and asked for another flavor shot in his cappuccino, witnesses said. Cooper, who had been studying a Zizek film text, looked up at Smith’s saucy grin and saw red.
“He was making fun of me,” Cooper said through the thick glass of the jail’s visitation room, his piercings gleaming in the muted light. “He looked at my glasses and my hair and my black clothes and laughed.”
Cooper reached across the counter, pulled Smith over it and started beating him over the head with a frothing pitcher.
“I don’t regret it,” Cooper said. “I watched that superior expression leave his face just like that. It felt great.”
But when Smith did not lose consciousness, Cooper’s anger elevated, witnesses said. He grabbed a bottle of Torani syrup and smashed it into his neck.
“I don’t know what got into that freak’s head,” Smith said in a phone interview from Minneapolis Central Hospital after the beating. “I was just telling my buddy about his weird hair and little glasses — you know, having a little fun. Then he suddenly attacked me.”
Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and evacuated the premises. After a brief struggle they handcuffed Cooper and led the disgruntled employee away from the scene.
“This is obviously a very disturbed individual,” said police officer John Bacon. “These kids who think they can get away with going to school for social problems and movies are the same ones who think they can beat on people.”
Despite doctors’ efforts to stop the bleeding and remove sticky glass chards from Smith’s chest area, he sank into a sugar-induced coma at around 1 a.m.
LaWanda Mitchell, a friend and classmate of Cooper’s, said he has always been a social outcast.
“I don’t spend too much time with him,” Mitchell said, “because he has this abnormal fixation with old Ratt songs and self-mutilation. It’s really scary.
“Most cultural studies majors are individuals. But he took it too far.”