The Minneapolis police officer behind the wheel of a squad car when it crashed into an innocent man's vehicle, killing the driver, is now charged with manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced criminal charges against officer Brian Cummings Friday, alleging he was going as fast as 90 mph in a 25 mph zone before the July 6 crash.
The Minneapolis Police Department said Cummings had been pursuing a carjacking suspect that had fled a traffic stop. During the chase, the squad car slammed into a Jeep at the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and 41st Avenue North. The driver of the Jeep, 40-year-old Leneal Frazier, was killed in the impact.
Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed George Floyd's arrest and his death.
Cummings had serious but non-life-threatening injuries. A driver in a third vehicle, driving southbound at the time, was also involved in the wreck. Police did not indicate any injuries suffered by the Columbia Heights man.
“Police are supposed to protect and serve citizens, and to act in a manner consistent with their sworn oath to do so," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in Friday's announcement. "Officer Cummings’ actions deviated from his oath and his negligence caused the death of Leneal Frazier."
Freeman also published a memo, insisting police pursuit policies "must be changed," citing numerous injuries and deaths suffered by innocent bystanders in recent years as a result of law enforcement chases.
"Officer Cummings should have discontinued the pursuit; but he did not," Freeman wrote in the memo. "The driver of the Kia Sportage was alleged to have committed non-violent offenses and was not alleged to have had a gun or other dangerous weapon."Freeman called Cummings' behavior "grossly negligent and inexcusable regardless of department policy."
Following the deadly crash, Mayor Jacob Frey said the city planned to review MPD's pursuit policy. Bring Me The News has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment.
Here's what the charges allege:
At 12:31 a.m. on July 6, Cummings saw a black Kia Sportage that matched the description of a stolen vehicle believed to be connected to other thefts. The officers tried to pull over that driver, but the Kia never stopped, and instead accelerated away.
Cummings, in a marked squad car, gave chase, with lights and sirens activated. The pursuit covered more than 20 blocks in north Minneapolis, cutting through residential neighborhoods. The vehicles were, at times, traveling at "extremely high speeds," sometimes approaching 100 mph.
Cummings followed the Kia through stop signs, red lights and intersections that had partially obstructed views, meaning it was difficult to see any approaching vehicles.
As Cummings approached the intersection of 41st Avenue North and Lyndale Avenue North, he was traveling northbound at about 90 mph — meaning he needed about 337 feet of clearance to stop in order to avoid a collision. The speed limit in this area is 25 mph.
The Kia blew through a red light at the intersection, narrowly missing Frazier's Jeep — which had entered the intersection on a green light. Then Cummings' squad car crashed into Frazier's vehicle, hitting the driver's side at approximately 78 mph.
The crash occurred near the middle of the intersection. Frazier had been traveling about 25 mph.
The accident reconstruction concluded: "This collision can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists."
Freeman is expected to discuss the charges further Friday.
KARE 11 was among the news outlets to obtain surveillance footage showing the crash. You can watch it here.
The department's pursuit policy at the time said officers should no longer give chase over minor offenses, stating a chase should only happen in connection with "a serious and violent felony or gross misdemeanor."