Guard sues Minnesota State Patrol for arrest during protests

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

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MINNEAPOLIS — A Black man who worked as a security guard for a CNN crew covering protests in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s  death last summer is suing two Minnesota State Patrol officers, accusing them of violating his civil rights and unlawful detention, his attorneys announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court last Thursday on behalf of Michael Cooper, a 64-year-old retired veteran of the Illinois State Police. Cooper was jailed for nearly 20 hours on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and violating a curfew, but he was never charged, the complaint says.

The lawsuit says Cooper was jailed even though he had a CNN press credential and a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm, and even though journalists were exempt from the curfew imposed during the unrest.

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Cooper’s arrest followed the arrest of a Black CNN reporter at the protests one day earlier. CNN hired Cooper to protect its news crews after that incident. The lawsuit says Cooper was arrested after officers began firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd and as he tried to guide the news crew to a safer area. White journalists who were nearby were not arrested after either incident, the complaint said.

The lawsuit names a state trooper and a State Patrol official who Cooper’s attorneys believe is a captain.

“We disagree with the allegations and look forward to presenting the facts in court,” said Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, which includes the State Patrol.

Contrasting with the lawsuit’s allegations, Trooper Patrick Kelly wrote in two field reports that Cooper had no credentials on him to prove that he was working for CNN, nor a permit to carry a weapon, and that there were no cameras or news crew members nearby. Kelly wrote that Cooper disregarded commands to leave the area. He wrote that Cooper was ordered to lay down on the ground and was arrested after another trooper spotted that he was carrying a gun.

Cooper is being represented by the firm of civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the Floyd family. Cooper is seeking over $1 million in damages. CNN is not a party to the case.

“How many times will the country need to see this script play out, where a Black man is treated differently by police than other people in the same situation?” attorney Christopher O’Neal said in a statement.