Shooting death of Savannah woman raises questions over early parole

Chantz Cooper is facing charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon as the GBI continues to investigate a July shooting. (Credit: CCSO)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the shooting death of Cynthia Fields.

Police say Fields was gunned down Friday, July 27, after shots were exchanged between her grandson Chantz Cooper and Savannah police officers.

Cooper is currently being held on charges including armed robbery, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Investigators say he was also connected to a shooting incident at Newcastle Street.

Cooper has an extensive criminal history in the juvenile justice system that dates back to 2011 with charges that include, sexual battery, aggravated assault, inciting a riot and aggravated battery.

“We have tragedies in this community because of that,” said District Attorney Meg Heap.

Heap is unable to comment on the Cooper case specifically due to the ongoing investigation.

Linda Wilder-Bryant was a friend of the victim, Cynthia Fields.

“She was collateral damage and I know they had to know what their grandsons were doing but they were afraid,” she said.

West Savannah community organizer Ronald Williams said some crime in the community is directly related to individuals who may be released too soon by the parole board.

“They are releasing these young men or young women and they come out and commit a crime that's worse than what they were serving time for,” he said.

Cooper was supposed to serve five years for two felonies, but his record shows he served less than half of that time.

FOX 28 asked a parole board official why they released him early.

Spokesperson Steve Hayes released this statement:

"The offender became parole eligible in December of 2017 as a result of the sentence delivered by the court. The Board's guidelines' recommendation was for the offender to serve a range of 20-32 months of the sentence prior to parole. The offender was granted and released on parole after serving 26 months, 6 months beyond his parole eligibility. Upon learning of his arrest, the Board immediately revoked the offender's parole."

The District Attorney’s office has turned their focus on repeat violent offenders within the community.

“These people are sentenced by a judge who believe this is an appropriate sentence and then they are released early and then we are seeing them commit new violent crimes in our community,” said Heap.

The issue of early release is raising more questions and Heap said creating more cases in the county.

“I do not understand why we are releasing these individuals and those are the ones we are fighting, I mean I have to say that time and time again I'm fighting the violent offenders. I don't want them coming back into this community,” she said.

FOX 28 reached out to an official at the Chatham County Juvenile Court for comment regarding Cooper’s history. A spokesperson said “We would not make a statement about his record the record speaks for itself.”

As for the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Hayes stated, “All available criminal history on the offender is included in the comprehensive parole case file for the board member to review and consider.”

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