Duluth Branch of NAACP call for action from St. Louis County attorney’s office

The Duluth Branch of the NAACP held a press conference on the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse Thursday afternoon to call on St. Louis County prosecutors to drop firearms possession charges against Steven Cooper. Cooper was arrested in July of 2022 for possession of a firearm. The NAACP states that Cooper was cleaning out the vehicle of his recently deceased brother when he found a gun and ammunition. He wrapped the gun in a sweatshirt, put it inside the secured door of his apartment building, and waited for his parole officer to arrive. Cooper’s parole officer then called the Duluth police and due to his previous criminal record, Cooper was arrested for possession of a firearm. Also, according to the NAACP, Minnesota law doesn’t grant exceptions for people convicted of violent felonies to accidentally or briefly possess firearms.

The St. Louis County attorney’s office released a statement on the matter saying “We stand by the decision to charge Mr. Cooper for violating the law based on the evidence we had at the time. The statute at issue in this case is a strict liability statute, meaning that the possessor’s intent isn’t an element of the crime. Rather, if a prohibited person is in possession of a firearm or ammunition, whether they intend to or not, they have violated the statute. We will not, however, make legal decisions based upon community pressure or false and unfounded allegations of racism in charging decisions.”

The attorney’s office also stated that the circumstances surrounding Cooper’s possession of the firearm are under active investigation by the Duluth Police Department and the results of the investigation have taken longer due to the heavy load of cases at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.