A Minneapolis police officer was charged with manslaughter and driving homicide in an accident in July that killed an innocent motorist as the officer chased a stolen vehicle, prosecutors said Friday.
Officer Brian Cummings was driving nearly 80 mph in Minneapolis with his siren and lights on when his patrol car crashed into another vehicle, killing Leneal Frazier, 40, Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman said. in a press release.
The crash ended a chase that lasted more than 20 blocks and roared through residential neighborhoods where the posted speed limit is 25 mph.
“The police are expected to protect and serve citizens and act in a manner consistent with their oath to do so. Constable Cummings’ actions violated his oath and his negligence resulted in the death of Leneal Frazier, ”Freeman said.
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During the pursuit of Cummings, Frazier’s Jeep entered an intersection on a green light. Investigators said the driver of the stolen vehicle narrowly missed the Jeep before the police car struck him on the driver’s side.
An accident reconstruction report said the fatal collision “can be attributed to the defendant for not driving his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said after Frazier’s death that the city would review its police pursuit policy, and that review was still underway on Friday.
A police spokesperson said this summer that the policy was not in violation during the prosecution, but prosecutors clearly disagree.
They cited the policy in their statement: “Officers should not initiate a prosecution or terminate an ongoing prosecution if the pursuit poses an unreasonable risk to officers, the public or passengers of the pursued vehicle who may be participants. reluctant. “
Cummings attorney Tom Plunkett said the officer was pursuing a suspect in a “violent car theft” and that the occupiers had been “in a wave of crime, a practice which has unfortunately become all too common in Minneapolis” .
The town’s police union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, whose cell phone video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was viewed around the world and helped launch a global protest movement against racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of murder and sentenced this year to Floyd’s death in 2020.
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The Frazier family, who had demanded that Cummings be prosecuted, hailed the charges as a first step to justice, according to their attorneys, Ben Crump and Jeff Storms.
“The Frazier family and our legal team are grateful for the charges against Brian Cummings for the reckless murder of Leneal Frazier,” they said in a statement. “We commend the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office for having the courage to hold law enforcement to account in this case. No innocent civilian should ever lose their life in unjustified high-speed chases in residential areas. “
Both charges against Cummings carry an alleged four-year jail term under state sentencing guidelines. Prison records show he has been released on bail and the hearing is set for November 9.
The ministry’s policy manual authorizes prosecutions for “serious and violent crimes.” including theft, and “flagrant reckless driving endangering public life”. The criminal complaint said the stolen vehicle was suspected of theft from businesses involving “limited use of force”, but none involving weapons or resulting in injury. Lawsuits for simple car theft are not permitted.
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Freeman launched a new plea on Friday for law enforcement agencies across the state to change their prosecution policies, saying they are not doing enough to protect human life. He said responses to previous critiques had been “weak and ineffective”. He said Minnesota agencies reported 40 fatal injuries resulting from lawsuits between 2013 and 2020.
“It has to stop,” Freeman said. “Prosecutions should be reserved for the most serious crimes and cases only. “
The charges against Cummings came a day after former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of manslaughter in 2017 in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was gunned down minutes after calling the 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind his house. . They also preceded the Nov. 2 vote in which Minneapolis residents will decide whether to replace the city’s police department with a new public safety unit.