Wright City

Two Wright City police officers recognized after chase

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 2/19/24

Two Wright City MO police officers were honored for their roles in capturing a suspect accused of stealing two vehicles.

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Wright City

Two Wright City police officers recognized after chase


Two Wright City police officers are being put in for the meritorious service awards because of their role in a multi-department manhunt for an individual who had stolen two cars.

The incident happened Feb. 3 throughout Warren County.

Wright City K-9 officer Jose Malta spotted a vehicle at 10:26 a.m. that was wanted in connection with a burglary and motor vehicle theft, Lieut. Aaron Sutton said during the Feb. 8 Wright City Board of Alderman meeting.

“At the time, the suspect in the crimes was reported to be armed and dangerous,” Sutton said. 

“Officer Malta’s quick action led to a pursuit that involved multiple agencies and ended with the successful apprehension of the suspect.”

During the pursuit, the suspect allegedly stole a second vehicle and attempted to steal a four-wheeler while attempting to evade officers from Wright City, Warrenton, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Wright City’s new police dog, Lupo, was also involved in the pursuit, which Sutton said made the chase even harder for Malta as he pursued the suspect through a wooded area.

“It is no small feat to chase someone for the 2 1/2 miles that the suspect was on foot. However, when you add the additional responsibility of maintaining a canine during that pursuit, the feat becomes more impressive and worthy of acknowledgment,” Sutton said.

During the pursuit, the suspect presented a knife sheath as though it was a firearm.

The suspect “instructed the officers in the area that they would have to shoot him as he was not willing to comply with their directives.”

However, Sutton later confirmed that no weapons were discharged and that the suspect, Virgil Cooper, was taken into custody. He was transported to the Warren County Jail.

Cooper was scheduled to have a bond review hearing on Feb. 14 before 12th circuit Judge Katie Joyce, according to CaseNet.

The department recommended Malta and Sgt. Christopher Ninness for the meritorious service award because of their role in the capture of the suspect.

“This was done without any injuries to any persons or any real property damage outside of some dirt,” Sutton said. “It’s a phenomenal act. These guys absolutely did a great job.”

Sutton also said some members of the public called the department to compliment the officers for their actions.

“We were able to actually get a lot of citizens’ compliments and commendations from the public,” Sutton told aldermen. “That’s not a normal thing, let’s be honest.”

One member of the public even reached out to Malta directly.

“K-9 Officer Malta got another text from a citizen saying that he had to deal with a difficult situation. And they appreciate the way we handled it, which I thought was just great,” Sutton said. “I just love to hear it. I never hear it enough. And when you do hear it, it carries more weight.”

Wright City Mayor Michelle Heiliger lauded the department for its work.

“I think the fact that we’re seeing this turn, it’s a testament to your leadership,” she said to both Sutton and Chief Tom Canavan. “You’re doing the right things. You’re making good decisions. You’re holding people accountable.”

About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at jason@warrencountyrecord.com

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