MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with manslaughter and vehicular homicide for a crash in July that killed an innocent motorist while the officer was pursuing a stolen vehicle, a prosecutor announced Friday.
Officer Brian Cummings was driving nearly 80 mph (129 kph) in Minneapolis with his siren and lights activated when his squad car slammed into another vehicle, killing 40-year-old Leneal Frazier, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. The crash ended a chase that lasted more than 20 blocks, including through residential neighborhoods where the posted speed limit is 25 mph.
“Police are supposed to protect and serve citizens, and to act in a manner consistent with their sworn oath to do so. Officer Cummings’ actions deviated from his oath and his negligence caused the death of Leneal Frazier,” Freeman said.
During Cummings’ chase, Frazier’s Jeep entered an intersection on a green light. According to investigators, the driver of the stolen vehicle narrowly missed Frazier’s Jeep before the squad car struck it on the driver’s side. An accident reconstruction report said the fatal collision "can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate 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 pursuit policy, and that review was still ongoing Friday. A police spokesman said this summer that the policy was properly followed in the chase, but the complaint clearly suggested that prosecutors don't think it was by quoting directly from the policy:
“Officers shall not initiate a pursuit or shall terminate a pursuit in progress if the pursuit poses an unreasonable risk to the officers, the public or passengers of the vehicle being pursued who may be unwilling participants.”
Cummings' attorney, Tom Plunkett, said Cummings was pursuing a suspect in a “violent carjacking” and that the occupants had been “on a crime spree, a practice that has unfortunately become too common in Minneapolis."
The city's police union didn't immediately respond to a message.
Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, whose cellphone video of Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was viewed worldwide and helped launch a global protest movement against racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of murder and sentenced this year in Floyd’s 2020 death.