Blake Edward Cooper, 50, a Harlan and former Denison resident who was found to be in possession of materials for making explosives and methamphetamine, and who claimed to have 30 guns, was ordered to be detained Wednesday by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen C. Adams.
His detention was recommended in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on August 1 by James R. Booth, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The charge listed in the criminal complaint is possession of a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
Adams wrote in her order that the court is concerned about the amount and type of guns, the bomb-making devices and the threats of violence alleged in the government’s exhibits.
She added that the weight of the evidence is strong.
“Defendant’s criminal history is relatively minn (minimal) but he does have a lengthy and prolonged substance abuse history,” Adams also wrote.
Law enforcement was alerted to Cooper’s possible possession of explosive materials when a woman who identified herself as his girlfriend told the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office that Cooper had sent her a text message in which he complained about the family law system and wrote that “collateral damage” resulting in death and injury to police officers and civilians.
According to the criminal complaint, the text message says the following:
“There [sic] gonna come for me. I bet this week. Collateral damage is key to whether or not people get informed as to how rigged the whole family law system is. It’s sad to say, but I need as much collateral damage as possible. If a cop gets shot in the leg while serving a warrant, that’s local news. If 6 cops get killed, 4 wounded and several innocent civilians get killed or severely wounded, then it becomes national news. And that’s the only way anything is ever gonna get stuff changed. And now that my whole plan had to be revealed to you, you will be an accessory.”
He also sent her a photo of a box with the accompanying message: “Package came today. 50lbs of ammonia nitrate. Google that.”
Additionally, he forwarded to her an order confirmation email that indicated he had purchased 50 pounds of ammonium nitrate on or about July 25.
Online Iowa court information shows that Cooper has been a party in family law cases in Shelby and Crawford counties.
On July 30, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshal executed a search warrant at Cooper’s residence in the 1600 block of Lincoln Avenue in Harlan and of his vehicle. The following was found.
- 50 pounds of ammonium nitrate, potassium chloride, potassium chlorate, suspected flash power and other unknown chemical mixtures
- 2 exploding target mixtures unopened
- A wireless detonator with three key fobs
- A mother board with antenna
- Hobby fuse
- 6-volt batteries
- 90 electric squibs
- A microcomputer timer switch
- Glues, liquid nails and silicon tape
Booth wrote in the criminal complaint that based on his experience and information from other ATF agents, the items found are consistent with making explosives and explosive devices.
Also found at Cooper’s residence were a 9 mm pistol, a 5.56 mm rifle, multiple glass smoking pipes, baggies with white residue, a butane torch and a digital scale.
A preliminary determination was made that the guns were manufactured outside Iowa so would have had to cross a state line.
Found in Cooper’s vehicle was a cloth bag that contained a glass smoking pipe and suspected methamphetamine. These both field-tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.
Cooper was initially charged in Iowa District Court in Shelby County on July 31 for possession of incendiary or explosive device with intent. That charge was dismissed on August 2 when he was arrested on a federal warrant.
The federal criminal complaint also says that during a post-Miranda interview, Cooper told Booth he had an estimated 30 guns at his home and that he had been using methamphetamine for two to three years but does not use it every week.
He initially said he had last used methamphetamine a week before the interview but later indicated he had used it within a couple days prior to the interview.
Cooper also stated during the interview that the only people residing with him were his 9- and 13-year-old children.
An initial appearance was conducted via a video conference on the afternoon of August 2. A federal public defender was appointed to represent Cooper, the government moved for detention and a preliminary examination and detention hearing was set for 4 p.m. on Wednesday via video conference.
At that hearing, the court found that the government met its burden of probable cause to believe that Cooper committed the alleged violation. The government offered two exhibits, one which was later ordered sealed, and Cooper’s 21-year-old daughter was called as a defense witness.