A man who was caught after stealing a firearm in Sandersville a year ago has pleaded guilty to a federal offense after admitting to doing the same thing at Academy Sports in Gulfport, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Mississippi announced.

Cody Jerome Cooley, 22, of Hattiesburg will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to unlawfully obstructing, delaying and affecting interstate commerce by robbery. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 12.

Cooley admitted to approaching the gun counter on Nov. 6 and asking the store clerk to see one of the handguns, a Springfield Armory XDM Elite. The clerk handed it over and Cooley later motioned toward another handgun in the display case. When the clerk turned his head to look at the gun, Cooley looked both ways, struck the clerk in the face with the handgun, then fled from the store. All of that was captured on surveillance footage.

After Cooley fled from the store with the stolen handgun, armed civilians apprehended Cooley in a nearby restaurant parking lot.

Cooley reportedly did the same thing at Sandersville Pawn and Gun last February, asking to see a handgun, then fleeing the store with it. Then-Chief Curt Pitts of the Sandersville Police Department then issued a “Be On the Lookout” alert for Cooley. He was later apprehended by Laurel police and the firearm was recovered.

Cooley admitted to taking the gun and striking the clerk after he was arrested in Gulfport, U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Brad L. Byerley said. The Springfield Armory handgun had been recently shipped by Academy Sports and Outdoors from out of state to Mississippi to be sold at the store. The clerk who was struck by Cooley had to receive medical care for his injuries.

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