64-Year-Old CNN Security Guard Sues Minnesota State Patrol For Arresting Him During George Floyd Protest
Michael Cooper is seeking over $1 million in damages.
June 02, 2021 at 4:40 pm
The plaintiff, Michael Cooper, was assigned to the security detail of a CNN news crew the day after the arrest of CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who is Black and Latino, occurred on live television. Cooper was working on May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis when he was detained by police.
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday, noted that despite Cooper -- the only Black crew member -- continuously showing press credentials, he was arrested while the white journalists nearby were allowed to proceed.
"The selective arresting of Black media members was not coincidental. It was intentional and racially motivated," the lawsuit said, NBC News reports.
In his suit against Minnesota State Patrol officer Patrick Kelly and another Minnesota officer listed as Jane Doe, the 64-year-old said he was guiding the news team to safety after being met with rubber bullets and “a barrage of tear gas.”
Cooper, who is also a retired Illinois State trooper, then approached Minnesota officers to ask how to exit the area, and flashed all of his credentials.
According to the suit, Kelly and other Minnesota officers disregarded Cooper, knocked the credentials out of his hand and told him to walk backwards, kneel, lay down and "place his arms straight out from his body with his palms facing straight up.” Cooper complied with the requests.
"Mr. Cooper was humiliated undergoing this process as a 64-year-old-man, who had dedicated over two-thirds of his life to serving the public in law enforcement," the suit said. "He has now been left to contemplate that the system he has dedicated his life to is capable of unlawfully arresting and causing resulting harm to wholly innocent men and women."
Cooper was arrested for violating curfew and carrying a concealed weapon without license to carry, despite explaining that press were exempt from curfew constraints and having a permit to carry.
He was handcuffed for at least an hour and a half and then booked into the Hennepin County’s Sheriff’s Office, where he was held for 20 hours before being released.
“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? Mr. Cooper’s experience while simply working while Black is, unfortunately, all too common," attorney Christopher O’Neal of Ben Crump Law, PLLC said.
Attorney Antonio M. Romanucci said that Cooper’s arrest was “baffling” given it took place during the uproar that followed an unjust killing of a Black man.
“The irony of Mr. Cooper’s arrest and mistreatment can’t be understated," he said. "As the city was engulfed in protests for the harsh mistreatment of a Black man by Minneapolis police, Mr. Cooper himself was mistreated by state law enforcement officers, which is both baffling and extremely disappointing."
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. He also wrote that Cooper was ordered to lay down on the ground and disregarded commands to leave the area. Reportedly, the 64-year-old was then arrested after another trooper spotted that he was carrying a gun.
“We disagree with the allegations and look forward to presenting the facts in court,” Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, which includes the State Patrol, said.
According to the Associated Press, Cooper is seeking over $1 million in damages.