MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO-TV has obtained surveillance video of the Minneapolis police chase Tuesday morning that ended with the death of an innocent driver.
The early morning crash at the intersection of Lyndale and 41st avenues killed 40-year-old Leneal Frazier of St. Paul, a father of five. He was also the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the viral video of George Floyd’s death.
Frazier’s family is demanding answers from the city. On Thursday, Mayor Jacob Frey released a statement, calling the crash a “horrific tragedy.” He said the state is handling the investigation and the city government is cooperating fully.
The Minneapolis Police Department says the crash happened in the city’s Camden neighborhood, a residential area just west of Interstate 94. Officers were chasing a carjacking and robbery suspect in a stolen car for about eight blocks before the crash occurred.
What The Surveillance Video Shows
The surveillance footage obtained by WCCO-TV from a nearby gas station in north Minneapolis shows the fatal crash. Moments before the collision, a car heading south on Lyndale stops at the intersection. The footage is black-and-white, and it’s difficult to make out the traffic lights.
Next, Frazier’s car approaches the intersection, heading west on 41st Avenue. Just before he rolls through, a car cuts across the intersection, traveling north at a high rate of speed. A moment later, a pursuing Minneapolis police squad car dashes into frame, slamming into Frazier’s car in the middle of the intersection.
The collision causes the vehicles to burst into flames and crash into the southbound car that was stopped at the light. The momentum of the initial crash pushes the three cars into a bus stop, which tumbles over. The wreckage burns for several seconds before another Minneapolis police car arrives at the scene. The suspect was able to get away, and is still at large.
Frazier died in the crash. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said his cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. The driver in the southbound car was treated for injuries at a hospital and is recovering at home. The officer involved in the crash, Brian Cummings, suffered a wrist injury and was briefly hospitalized. The department says he is currently on standard critical incident leave.
‘This Ain’t The Freeway’
So far, no video has been released by officials, although police documents show that there is body-worn camera and dashcam footage of the crash. The Minnesota State Patrol is reviewing those videos. Documents released Thursday also revealed that Cummings did have his squad car lights and sirens on, and the suspect and Cummings ran a red light before the deadly crash. It doesn’t appear this intersection has an Opticon device, which allows police to change traffic lights when responding to an emergency.
According to Minneapolis police policy, officers are not to pursue suspects when there is an “unreasonable risk to the officer, the public or passengers of the vehicle being pursued.” Police can begin a chase if they believe “a serious and violent felony or gross misdemeanor” has either been committed or about to be committed by the suspect.
Frazier’s cousin, Terry, who only identified himself to WCCO-TV by his first name, says that he understands that police have a job to do, but doesn’t think officers should chase suspects at high speeds through neighborhoods.
“This ain’t the freeway. Y’all ain’t cowboys,” he said. “Y’all are supposed to protect and serve us.”
Patricia Johnson, the mother of Frazier’s 8-month-old son, wants MPD’s pursuit policies to be examined.
“They need to change that. They need to change that because I feel like if they hadn’t been doing that pursuit none of this would have ever happened,” Johnson said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced Thursday that he is representing Frazier’s family. Crump also represents the family of George Floyd, who earlier this year won a historic $27 million civil suit against the city of Minneapolis.
The standard of discipline or legal and monetary consequences for the officer or the city of Minneapolis in a civil suit is unclear, says Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty.
“I think that does depend on the facts. I’m sure what they’re doing right now is investigating how fast the officer was going, the nature of that intersection,” Moriarty said. “If they can prove a case where the officer was unreasonably endangering the lives of the public they may have a good cause of action there.”
Meanwhile, the Racial Justice Network, a Minnesota-based organization headed by civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, is calling for MPD to fire Cummings. In a press release, the organization also called for Cummings to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for recklessly using his car as a weapon on a residential street,” and a full review of MPD pursuit policies.
Cummings’ personnel files show he joined MPD in 2008, and has received two department awards, one of which was for his actions in a police pursuit involving a stolen vehicle in 2016. Cummings has also had 12 complaints brought against him, all of which were “closed with no discipline.”