Friends of the man recently beaten to death by a crew of ATV and dirt bike riders believe he would have forgiven the very people who killed him in Harlem — and likely would have tried to help them mend their ways — had he recovered.
Arthur Cooke, an ex-con turned case manager for people in trouble with the law, succumbed to his wounds last Friday.
“He might be the one that helped them out of the situation, even in the situation that they did that to him,” his son’s mother, Tamura “Tammy” Locascio, told the Daily News on Thursday. “That’s how much dedicated he was to his job and to helping the community.
“He probably would have sat there and tried to get even less time for them or something.”
As a case manager and court advocate with the nonprofit Exodus Transitional Community’s Alternatives To Incarceration, Cooke used to dress up for court appearances, advocating for others in ways he never advocated for himself.
“I took a plea deal, and he just came to court with me to explain to the DA and the judges why I deserve a second chance,” Jason Fields, an Alternatives To Incarceration client, told The News. “They were just blown away by it. I’m just remembering the suit he was wearing and what he said.”
Fields, 28, was reflecting on the life of his friend and mentor a week after Cooke died from injuries he suffered when a mob of ATV and dirt bike riders attacked him on a Harlem street on Nov. 4.
Cooke, 45, was on his way home from a date with his girlfriend when a clash with one of the riders led to a vicious beatdown that left him in a coma for two weeks before he died.
After the attack, at E. 125th St. near Madison Ave., a nearby homeless man jumped inside the victim’s gray Mercedes-Benz and sped off, police said.
Cooke was left hospitalized for severe injuries to his neck and spine. The stolen car was later recovered on Randalls Island, but neither the attackers nor the car thief have been arrested.
Family held onto hope he would pull through after he showed signs of improvement, but doctors warned them not to forget he was brain-dead.
“He was responding,” said Locascio, 45. “But the doctors think that that was just reflexes because he was brain-dead.”
Cooke was just four blocks from his Harlem home when attacked, and his death was ruled a homicide, according to police.
“Just a lot of pain,” Locascio said of his death. “And I was really hurting. I was just praying that he’d wake up and get off the bed and say everything’s all right.”
Cooke’s friend, Raphael Jefferson, said the victim touched a lot of lives and made a genuine difference in the community.
“If you are part of the problem and someone finally gave you the opportunity and says ‘if you don’t like this, I’m going to give you a chance to do the right thing.’” Jefferson said. “It’s like someone finally wiped your slate clean and finally gave you a chance to do the right thing and really be who you know you are. That’s what Exodus gives us.
“We come here and we’re all castrated from society as being these criminals and things, and then we learn how to harness our powers and do better. And that’s exactly who he was.”
Jefferson said Cooke, who served four years in jail after convictions for assault, robbery and arson in Queens, was committed to turning his life around and helping others do the same.
“That man was suited down Monday through Friday,” Jefferson said. “He always used to say, ‘On my way to court. On my way to court.’ And he would laugh. Because he used to say that in his past life because he had to go fight for his own self. But now he was on his way to go fight for someone else. He was almost a guardian for these guys. He worked a lot.”
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As devoted as he was to his Exodus clients, he was even more devoted to his 6-year-old son, friends said.
“He would tell me all the time ‘I’m in love with our son,’” Locascio said. “I’d say, ‘I understand that.’ And he’d say, ‘No, you gotta understand, I am in love with this little boy.’”
Fields said Cooke gave him hope.
“He shared something in group one morning when me and someone else were talking about ending our lives,” Fields said. “He said in his time in prison, he always thought about giving up. But ‘there’s more to life.’ And it took my mind off those suicidal thoughts. Arthur made sure that I knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
“He was really in the streets at one point, and then he made a complete 180 turn. It showed me what a man should be.”
Locascio said she was doing her best to get through Thanksgiving and the holiday season, when Cooke would dress up as the Grinch and entertain their son.
“It’s very trying for me to get through this day,” she said. “Holidays were Arthur’s thing, and he went all-out in celebrating. Every holiday.”