Polk County men attacked while searching for pet cat

Posted at 11:20 PM, Jun 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 23:20:37-04
Deputies are searching for two men who they said attacked a Polk County man late Sunday night as he searched for his friend's cat.
Gary Cooper and his girlfriend, Stephanie Atkinson, were cat sitting their best friend's cat, Oswald, when they thought he escaped.
Cooper and Atkinson immediately searched for him with their roommate. As they searched the neighborhood, which is located in unincorporated Winter Haven, they noticed an SUV. 
"The car stopped next to us and they kind of just stopped there for a minute, so we kept walking," Atkinson said.
They dismissed it until the SUV returned at some point and two men jumped out. Cooper saw a gun.
"Once I realized there was a pistol in the situation, I just yelled for everyone to hide. At that moment it was mainly about…we have to make it out of this OK. It wasn't about what was in my pockets (or) what I was giving to them," Cooper said.
Cooper said both men attacked him. He said one of the men hit him across the face with the gun. He said he suffered minor scrapes and bruises. He is thankful the situation didn't escalate. Cooper was mainly concerned about staying between his attackers and protecting his girlfriend.
"I was screaming my head off at the end of the road, hoping some neighbors would wake up," Atkinson said.
Cooper said he gave the suspects his wallet. He thought it was over and that the suspects were leaving, but he said it wasn't over and the suspects chased them back to their home before they took off with his IDs and a bank card.
"That's not how you make money. That's not how you…that's not how you're supposed to live, and I'm glad there's a little bit of light being shone on what you've done, and I hope it's enough light to catch you," Cooper said.
According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the suspects used Cooper's credit card at a McDonald's in Lakeland. The McDonald's is 14 miles away from where Cooper was attacked.
"They decided to take it to McDonald's (and) have a nice dinner on me," Cooper said.
Cooper is thankful he, his roommate, and girlfriend are OK and that Oswald is safe.
"Oswald was never missing. He was inside, playing a Houdini on us all, which is kind of the best news we got all night," Cooper said.
Authorities said most personal robberies are not random like this one. This year, the Sheriff's Office has investigated 47 personal robberies throughout the county and they said those personal robberies do not necessarily mean they were armed personal robberies. Authorities said violent crime is down in the county.