Minneapolis police officer first appears in court in fatal accident


Minneapolis Police Officer Brian Cummings is scheduled to appear in court for the first time this afternoon for crashing into a passerby’s car and killing him while chasing a suspected stolen vehicle.

Cummings, 37, was charged in October with second-degree manslaughter and driving manslaughter for hitting the vehicle Leneal Frazier was driving on July 6 and killing him, a rare series of charges against a Minnesota police officer.

Cummings was charged by summons, which allowed him to surrender to be incarcerated at the Hennepin County Jail in October and released the same day. He’s on his own pledge and will appear at today’s hearing at 1:31 p.m. via Zoom.

Frazier’s family and their civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storms are expected to speak about the case at 2:30 p.m. outside City Hall.

“Mr. Storms and the family will share their reactions to the indictment and the initial appearance of Brian Cummings…” the attorneys’ press release said. “Frazier was an innocent civilian killed by a Minneapolis police officer during a police chase of a suspected carjacking suspect. Mr. Frazier was a son, brother, father and grandfather. “

Cummings is represented by attorney Thomas Plunkett, who represented former Minneapolis cop Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. Plunkett also represents J. Alexander Kueng in the 2020 death of George Floyd in custody on sight in Minneapolis.

A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department said in late October that Cummings was still in the department and his specific assignment was not public information. It was not immediately clear whether his employment status had changed.

According to the charges:

The pursuit of the vehicle stolen by Cummings covered 20 city blocks, including residential streets. The stolen Kia, complete with stop signs and red lights, was traveling at around 100 mph when it crossed a red light at an intersection in northern Minneapolis and nearly collided with Frazier’s Jeep.

The suspects in the stolen car, followed by Cummings with his lights and siren on, headed north on N. Lyndale Avenue as Frazier, heading west on 41st Avenue, approached the intersection. He was traveling at about 25 mph, the posted speed limit, and had a green light.

Cummings was traveling at around 90 mph as he entered the intersection and struck the driver side of Frazier’s SUV at around 78 mph. According to the charges, it would have taken Cummings 337 feet to stop and avoid an accident while driving at 90 mph.

Frazier had a partially obstructed view of northbound traffic on Lyndale due to an apartment building on the corner, and northbound traffic would have had an obstructed view of vehicles heading west on 41st Avenue . However, northbound traffic had a clear view of the red light at the intersection.

The accident reconstruction team concluded that the collision could be “attributed to the defendant for not driving his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists”, according to the charges.

An earlier police report of the crash said the collision pushed Frazier’s vehicle into a van stopped at a south-facing red light, then into a Metro Transit bus shelter before it came to a stop.

Frazier, 40, of St. Paul, was taken to a hospital, where staff members were able to take the pulse before he “suddenly codes,” according to the report. Cummings and the driver of the van were slightly injured.

Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the young woman whose cellphone video of George Floyd’s death in May 2020 helped convict Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin of murder.

Family, friends and supporters commemorated Frazier during a funeral service in late July. They recalled his fondness for scripture quotation and his love for his grandson, rap and barbecue.

Minneapolis Police said at the time of the incident that Cummings’ prosecution “met the criteria” set out in the department’s prosecution guidelines. However, Frey announced that the city would reconsider the policy again, which states that the police cannot initiate a lawsuit and must end it if it “presents an unreasonable risk to officers, the public or the passengers of the pursued vehicle who may be reluctant participants. “

While officers once had the power to prosecute suspects for certain property crimes, police prosecutions in Minneapolis are now only permitted for serious and violent crimes or serious misdemeanors, including murder and attempted murder. violent sex crimes, kidnappings, carjackings and arson.

Editor-in-chief Libor Jany contributed to this report.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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