A Minneapolis police officer has been charged in a car crash that resulted in the death of Leneal Frazier, the uncle of the teen who recorded the final minutes of George Floyd‘s life in 2020, the Associated Press reported.
Officer Brian Cummings was pursuing a stolen vehicle in July when his squad car slammed into another vehicle, killing Frazier, 40.
Cummings’ pursuit through Minneapolis lasted more than 20 blocks. He was driving nearly 80 mph, with his siren and lights activated, when the crash occurred, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Some of the residential neighborhoods he drove through had posted speed limits of 25 mph.
An accident reconstruction report said the deadly crash “can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists.” Cummings faces charges of manslaughter and vehicular homicide, the AP reported.
“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.
Leneal Frazier is the uncle of Darnella Frazier, whose video of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody helped fuel a global movement against racial injustice.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
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, Thomas Plunkett, declined to immediately comment. The city’s police union didn’t immediately respond to a message.
The Frazier family, which had called for Cummings to be prosecuted in Frazier’s death, welcomed the charges as a first step toward justice, according to their lawyers, Ben Crump and Jeff Storms.
“The Frazier family and our legal team are grateful for the charges brought against Brian Cummings for the reckless killing of Leneal Frazier,” they said in a statement. “We commend the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for having the courage to hold law enforcement accountable in this instance. No innocent civilian should ever lose their life because of unwarranted high-speed chases in residential neighborhoods.”
Both charges against Cummings carry a presumptive prison sentence of four years under state sentencing guidelines.
The department’s policy manual allows pursuits for “serious and violent crimes.” including robbery, and “flagrantly reckless driving that is life-threatening to the public.” The complaint said the stolen vehicle was suspected in thefts from businesses that involved “some limited use of force” but none involving weapons or resulted in injuries. Chases for simple auto theft are not allowed.
Freeman made a fresh plea Friday for law enforcement across the state to change their pursuit policies, saying they don’t do enough to protect human life. He said responses to previous criticism had been “weak and ineffective.” He said Minnesota agencies reported 40 fatal injuries resulting from pursuits from 2013-2020.
“This must stop,” Freeman wrote. “Pursuits must be reserved for only the most serious crimes and cases.”
The charges against Cummings came a day after former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was resentenced on a manslaughter charge in the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was shot minutes after she had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. They also came ahead of a Nov. 2 vote in which Minneapolis residents will decide whether to replace the city’s police department with a new public safety unit.