What childhood friends remember most about Katherine Cooper was her energy: Katie, they said, was unbeatable at foot races, hide-and-go-seek and catching up with the ice-cream truck when it rolled through their tidy Chino Hills neighborhood.
“That girl could run,” recalled Phoenix Morales, 24, who attended grade school with Cooper, 22, a victim of the rampage near UC Santa Barbara that left seven dead, including attacker Elliot Rodger.
“She’d beat anyone who dared to run against her,” he said, looking out at the cul-de-sac lined with Mediterranean-style red-tiled roofs where they once played baseball and soccer. “Then she’d stand there laughing and trying to catch her breath.”
Morales received the bad news Saturday night. “I got a text message from my brother: ‘You hear what happened to Katie? She’s not going to make it,’” he recalled, shaking his head in sadness. “I started to cry, and think about the great times we had. We grew up with the Cooper family. So it’s like losing a member of the family.”
Like many others in the area, Morales and his 23-year-old brother, Jacob, spent Monday sifting through photos of better times.
“I like this one,” Jacob said, holding up a snapshot taken 14 years ago “during my backyard birthday party.”
“That’s Katie,” he said, pointing at a little girl with a big smile and cascading strawberry blond curls.
Morales set the photograph down, then nodded toward the house a few doors down where Katie’s family exchanged emotional embraces with relatives and close friends.
“It’s hard to believe this has happened,” he said. “It’s a sad, sick world.”
A note taped to a window at the Cooper home said, “Please, no press. We appreciate your kindness to want to find out about Katie’s life. But we are choosing to remember her in our own way. Thank you. The Cooper family.”
In a quiet, somber voice, Allen Borcherding said Cooper was a “more than an excellent student” in his seventh-grade science class at Canyon Hills Junior High School in Chino Hills.
“She was one of 2,500 students I’ve taught over the years, but Katie was a standout,” Borcherding said in an interview in the living room of his home.
“After I heard about what happened, I went through my files and found a photograph that reminded me of the things she did,” he said. “Katie had a 4.0 grade-point average in my class. Beyond that, she was so outgoing that I put her with other students who were struggling because she was such an outgoing, helpful person.”
Cooper went on to become an art history and archaeology student at UC Santa Barbara, and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
“Katie was a wonderful kid,” he added. “But evil’s on the move.”
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