During last year’s protests over the murder of George Floyd, a Black security guard working for a TV crew claimed in a complaint filed last week that he was wrongfully jailed while his white coworkers were left alone.
The action was filed on Thursday by Michael Cooper, a 64-year-old retired Illinois State Police officer against Minnesota State Patrol trooper Patrick Kelly and a Minnesota State Patrol trooper known as Jane Doe.
On May 30, 2020, Cooper was serving as a security officer for CNN’s broadcast team when a news team member was struck with a rubber bullet, and the entire team “encountered a barrage of tear gas,” according to the claim.
Cooper advised the crew to approach troopers “calmly,” show them their press credentials, and ask how to safely evacuate the area, according to the claim. Cooper then raised his Illinois State Police credentials in the air and approached the officers with a producer.
Cooper indicated he was a reporter several times, but the troopers disregarded him and directed him to go backward, kneel, lay down, and “place his arms straight out from his body with his palms facing straight up,” according to the suit. Cooper went along with it.
According to the claim, Kelly and other troopers knocked Cooper’s identification out of his hand and handcuffed him. Cooper never resisted, but he did explain that he was a retired officer and a member of the press.
He was handcuffed for at least an hour and a half before being booked into the Sheriff’s Office in Hennepin County.
According to Doe, Cooper violated curfew despite his attempts to explain that the press was exempt. Even though he had a license to carry, he was arrested for violating curfew and carrying a hidden weapon without a permit, according to the lawsuit.
Cooper was imprisoned for 20 hours before being freed. He was never charged in any way.
“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.”
According to the lawsuit, Cooper was the only Black member of his crew, and none of the white journalists were detained despite being in the same location as Cooper. After Omar Jimenez, a Black Latino CNN correspondent, was jailed on live TV while covering the protests the day before, he was deployed to provide security for the broadcast team.
“The selective arresting of Black media members was not coincidental. It was intentional and racially motivated,” the lawsuit said.
“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,” said attorney Christopher O’Neal.
“The irony of Mr. Cooper’s arrest and mistreatment can’t be understated. 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,” said attorney Antonio M. Romanucci.
According to the lawsuit, Cooper is seeking $500,000 in damages.
“We disagree with the allegations and look forward to presenting the facts in court.” a representative for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said, adding that he could not comment on pending litigation.
An attempt for comment from Kelly went unanswered. Cooper proceeded to approach law police after being told many times to leave the area, according to a preliminary report he made after Cooper’s detention. According to the article, Cooper did not have press credentials, but he did have a retired Illinois State Patrol identification card on him.