MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Police Officer Brian Cummings now faces two felony charges in connection to the collision that killed 40-year-old Leneal Frazier earlier this year.
On Friday, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced that Cummings is charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide.
According to the criminal complaint, the officer was in pursuit of a stolen vehicle in north Minneapolis on July 6 when his marked squad car slammed into the driver’s side of Frazier’s Jeep at nearly 80 mph.
Prior to the crash, Cummings was following the stolen vehicle at high speeds “at or approaching 100 mph” through numerous stop signs, red lights, and partially obstructed intersections, many of which blocked the view of approaching vehicles, the complaint said.
Frazier died of injuries suffered in the crash.
Frazier, of St. Paul, was a father of five and also the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the viral video of George Floyd’s death.
“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,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Leneal Frazier’s family, released a statement following the announcement of charges.
“The Frazier family and our legal team are grateful for the charges brought against Brian Cummings for the reckless killing of Leneal Frazier,” Crump said. “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. This case shines a light on how far we have to go in the pursuit of safe and just policing in America. High-speed pursuit policies in Minneapolis and across America must be better written and stringently enforced to protect innocent civilians. This is only the first step in getting full justice for the Frazier family in this tragic and preventable loss.”
Crump also represents the family of George Floyd, who earlier this year won a historic $27 million civil suit against the city of Minneapolis.
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.”
Cummings’ first appearance will be scheduled in the coming days.
“These charges are appropriate based on the thorough investigation conducted. I hope the victim’s family and loved ones find some solace in knowing we are doing everything we can to get justice for Mr. Frazier,” Freeman said.
More Details On The Fatal Crash
Surveillance footage obtained by WCCO-TV from a nearby gas station showed the fiery collision that occurred just after midnight on July 6.
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.
Cummings suffered a wrist injury and was briefly hospitalized. He was placed on standard critical incident leave.
Documents released after the deadly crash also revealed that Cummings did have his squad car lights and sirens on, and the suspect and Cummings ran a red light before the collision. 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.
Accident reconstruction determined that “this collision can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists,” the attorney’s office said.