PHOENIX — A convicted felon accused in nine shooting deaths in metro Phoenix over a three-week span had a lengthy disciplinary record while he served a 16-year prison sentence in Arizona for a manslaughter conviction.
The more than 20 disciplinary violations against 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr. included fighting with other inmates and assaulting a corrections officer by grabbing and swatting down the officer’s hands during a pat-down search.
As a result of the violations, Cooksey temporarily lost visitation privileges, according to prison records released late last week.
Investigators said Cooksey was responsible for fatally shooting nine people from late November until mid-December in Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale.
He is charged with murder in the fatal shootings of his mother and stepfather. Authorities say he fatally shot seven other people, though he hasn’t been charged in those deaths. Cooksey has pleaded not guilty to charges in the deaths of his mother and stepfather.
Gary Beren, an attorney who represents Cooksey, didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment on Monday.
In an August 2011 note to prison officials, Cooksey said he didn’t pose a threat to others.
“I’ve seen enough violence in my lifetime to know that is not the answer,” Cooksey wrote. “There is nothing I want more than to be home with my family pursuing my goals and making my dreams a reality.”
Cooksey entered prison at 19 for the manslaughter conviction stemming from his participation in the 2001 robbery of a strip club where one of his accomplices was fatally shot.
His disciplinary violations during his prison stint included penning an anonymous love letter that was slipped under the office door of a corrections officer.
Prison officials say Cooksey took part in a December 2008 fight with two other inmates that required officers to use pepper spray, according to records. In response to a disciplinary case stemming from the fight, Cooksey acknowledged acting reckless and said he was remorseful.
Cooksey disputed that he assaulted the corrections officer who was trying to do a pat-down search in his groin area in July 2011. Records say officers are required to check prisoners’ genital areas for contraband during such searches.
Cooksey was released from prison in January 2015 but was sent back in February 2017 to serve out the remainder of his sentence after he used synthetic marijuana, failed to complete a substance abuse program and was arrested on suspicion on unlawful use of means of transportation, assault and leaving the scene of an accident, prison officials said.
He was released from prison in late July 2017, four months before authorities say the nine killings began.