In the News

Project Pneuma aims to bridge youth to police

Lisa Robinson – I-Team Reporter – Updated: 5:30 PM EDT Aug 29, 2019


One of Damion Cooper’s worst days turned into one of the best things that has ever happened to him.

As a shooting victim, Cooper uses his experience to help young men in Baltimore understand their own pain and find success.

The young men and Baltimore City police recruits are learning about one another through, which Cooper started in 2014 to teach young men forgiveness and self-control and to help police officers better interact with them.

“I believe new life was breathed into me when I got shot. It’s our job to breathe new life into these young men in Baltimore City,” Cooper said.

In October 1992, Cooper was a 20-year-old student at Coppin State University on a wrestling scholarship. He left campus to go home to east Baltimore. Then, in the 3900 block of Chesterfield Avenue, someone shot him an inch above his heart as part of a gang initiation.

“I was taught as a young man growing up in east Baltimore never show fear or pain,” Cooper said.

Over the next several years, Cooper was angry, depressed and ready to take his life when some friends stopped him. He began mentoring prisoners, including the one who shot him.

“If I can forgive the man who put a bullet in my chest, we can help work with some of these young men and help them forgive daddy issues, mommy issues and people talking about their clothes at school,” Cooper said.

Madison Wolfanger, 21, is a police recruit from Syracuse, New York.

“I get an insight through this program of what they are going through and what problems they are seeing in their own community and how I can attack those problems to try to make it a better solution for them,” Wolfanger said.

The boys learn wrestling and challenge one another in many ways. They also learn how to be calm with sound therapy.

Cooper said as the boys and recruits grow over the course of a year, so do the bonds of love and trust.