Last month, Minneapolis police officers arrested Jiyaad Copeland, 21, after they allegedly found a Sig Sauer 9mm semi-automatic pistol in a car he was riding in. According to the complaint, Copeland was sitting in the right rear seat of a black Dodge Durango and the gun was found under the right front passenger seat, “with the gun’s barrel pointing towards the front of the vehicle making it appear to have been placed there by the right backseat passenger.” Police say they saw Copeland making “furtive movements and bending forward towards the floor boards” after they pulled the vehicle over along West Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis. He’s been charged with illegally possessing a gun.
Three years ago, Copeland was arrested in an automobile with a 44 caliber magnum revolver on the seat next to him. He pleaded guilty to being a “prohibited person in possession of a firearm” due to a prior felony conviction. In May of 2010, Hennepin County Judge Beryl Nord sent Copeland to the state prison in Lino Lakes prison for 40 months – a lighter sentence than the five-year penalty proscribed by state law. Court documents show Copeland received the lighter sentence because he took responsibility for his actions.
I traveled to Lino Lakes with photojournalist Jeff Thompson in February of 2011 to interview Copeland for the MPR News series “Following the Firearms: Gun Violence in Minneapolis.” You can watch video of the interview here.
Copeland was contrite, and appeared to want to change his life. He told me he wanted to leave the guns behind upon his release from prison. However, Copeland also said he knew that because of his gang ties (he never admitted to being in a gang but said he was friends with gang members), that someone might still have a grudge against him – someone carrying a gun.
Copeland was released from prison in May of 2012 and now, just over a year later, is in Hennepin County Jail again on a gun charge. He has been assigned a public defender, who has not yet returned a call for comment. Copeland turns 22 on Friday and will likely do so in custody.