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Mar 1 2009

Dart Award Honorable Mention

Aftershocks of a Crime Spree

9:06 A.M.

Doyle drives through the parking lot at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, looking for somebody to rob. He spots a guy sitting in a black Olds Cutlass Supreme, reading a newspaper.

Doyle drives through the parking lot at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, looking for somebody to rob. He spots a guy sitting in a black Olds Cutlass Supreme, reading a newspaper.

Doyle pulls up alongside and tries to get out, but gets his feet tangled in the fishing pole. He starts to fight it and he's getting mad and he can't get out. It reminds Dando of a scene from a funny movie, their favorite movie, "Gone Fishin'."

Scott Cooper, a 29-year-old who works in medical sales, is killing time before a 9:30 appointment.

Doyle rushes to the car with the shotgun and demands his wallet and car keys.

Cooper hands them over and watches them take off.

Dando is driving. Doyle is sitting in the passenger's seat, going through the wallet, throwing cards with disgust.

"He doesn't have any money!"

"People don't keep their money in their wallet anymore," Dando says. "They keep it in their socks and pockets. There are too many pickpockets."

She starts to make fun of Doyle, for picking victims with so little money.

But she has to be careful. She tries to avoid fighting with him because when he is mad, he hogs all of the drugs.

Doyle goes through the wallet and looks at the driver's license. He thinks he has a passing resemblance to Cooper. They both have blue eyes and blond hair.

He gets an idea: Go to a bank and try to use Cooper's credit cards. And then another idea: He will have Dando go into the bank and say she is Cooper's fiancee and she forgot the PIN number.

Back in the parking lot, Cooper's first instinct is to chase them. He reaches for the ignition and realizes the keys are gone.

Angry and frustrated, he calls 911 on his cell phone. Cooper spent 10 1/2 months in the Persian Gulf, calling in coordinates for field artillery, safely positioned about 1 1/2 miles from the targets. He survived a war and never had a gun shoved in his face. Until now.

The police respond in about five minutes. Forty minutes later, they have stopped two red pickup trucks. Cooper is asked to drive by the suspects but he doesn't recognize them.

After the robbery, Cooper will have one impulse that returns again and again: He wants to buy a gun.

"If I had a gun," he will say, "I would

have used it."

Officers from White Lake take Cubitt, the first victim, to the Oakland County crime lab to create a composite sketch of the white female. While they are there, they learn about the robbery at Great Lakes Crossing.

Doyle stops at a small liquor store in Waterford. He tries to buy a 12-pack of Michelob Light and cigarettes but Cooper's credit card is rejected. Dando uses cash to buy strawberry milk and a box of chocolate doughnuts.

She forgets to eat when she is doing drugs, so she drinks strawberry milk. She thinks of it as a meal, hitting two of the main food groups, fruit and dairy.

She gets into the truck and Doyle yells at her for spending $5 -- money that could have been spent on drugs.

They pull up to a stoplight and a cop pulls up alongside them.

Dando tries to cover her face. She slides down in the seat and turns away quickly.

When the light turns green, the cop car speeds off.

"Oh my God," she says. "My heart stopped beating."

She is scared.

"From now on, we'll take the back streets," he says. "Cops never use back roads."

They drive to a crack house in Pontiac and Doyle buys $50 of crack by writing a bad check. He has been passing bad checks for weeks. He hogs the rock, smoking it all himself.

They go to a friend's house and take a break, helping him return a rental car. Doyle and Dando go back to their house on Crescent Lake Road and hang out for a couple of hours.

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