Hattiesburg man pleads guilty stealing gun, striking clerk

A Hattiesburg man pleaded guilty this week to robbing the Academy Sports + Outdoors in Gulfport.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cody Jerome Cooley, 22, visited the store on November 6, 2021. He went to the gun counter and asked to see a Springfield Armory XDM Elite handgun. Cooley examined the gun and then asked to see another handgun in the display case.

When the clerk turned to look at the second gun, Cooley looked both ways , then struck the clerk in the face with the gun in his hand before fleeing the store with the gun.

The incident was captured on store cameras.

After fleeing the store, armed civilians detained Cooley at a nearby restaurant parking lot until police arrived. Cooley admitted taking the gun and hitting the clerk, who had to receive medical care for his injuries.

Cooley pleaded guilty to unlawfully obstructing, delaying, and affecting interstate commerce by robbery, known as the Hobbs Act. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 12, 2022. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

The Hobbs Act  is a federal law prohibiting extortion or robbery by wrongful use of force or fear, or the attempt of these crimes, affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Further, it prohibits individuals from making threats to use force, violence, or fear to acquire property.

Because the handgun had been shipped by Academy Sports + Outdoors from out of state to Mississippi to be sold at the store, the crime fell under the Hobbs Act.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Gulfport Police Department investigated the case.

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