Family’s attorney: ‘This is about race’
Laneal Frazier, the recent victim of a police chase, was laid to rest early this week in a ceremony in which his family looked back fondly on their memories of him. It also had a tone of defiance.
“An innocent man minding his business, traveling in his neighborhood home to see his family, gets killed because you violated a policy,” said Ben Crump, whose firm is representing Frazier’s family. “We have to say no more innocent Black people being killed at the hands of the police for violating their policies.”
Vigils have been held honoring Frazier’s memory and calling for justice, and last week a press conference was called by family members and activists. “This is about race,” said attorney Jeff Storms at the conference.
Frazier was killed in the early morning hours of July 6 when Minneapolis Police Officer Brian Cunningham broadsided him while ignoring a traffic light and speeding through an intersection while giving chase to a robbery suspect. No charges have been filed against the officer. Participants called on the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to file charges against the officer involved.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to view the body,” complained Orlando Frazier, brother of Laneal Frazier. “How can this keep going on like this? My family is hurting. My brother was a happy person, and he didn’t deserve what he got.”
“I started looking at facts,” said Storms, “and USA Today did a study five years ago that showed that Black Americans are more likely to be killed by police chases even as innocent bystanders and are three times more likely to be killed than other Americans. So when someone says this is not about race, that is ignoring the various systematic race issues that are at play here, and how law enforcement polices Black communities, and the aggression with which law enforcement, in particular, polices our Black brothers and sisters.
“Accountability does not have to stop with civil accountability. When a citizen drives recklessly and kills somebody, they face criminal charges. And that’s exactly what needs to be pursued and applied here.”
Storms addressed those who said this case was a hard case to win. “The Black community has had to fight every step of the way to get anything resembling equality in this country. Some say these cases are hard. Cases are hard when the defendant, the offending party, doesn’t want to be held accountable.
“The City of Minneapolis has got to ask itself what kind of precedent are we going to set now. We have seen the precedent previously set in 2010 [when] a man named David Smith died almost exactly the way George Floyd was killed.”
Storms pointed out that some people have been saying, “We have a crime problem. We have to fight crime.” He asked aloud if they are they saying, “Your innocent members of the Black community have to die to in order for us fight crime. It’s not enough that members of the community die from pre-textual stops like Daunte Wright, but they are now telling us that in order to properly police the city of Minneapolis, innocent members of the community have to die too. That cannot be the answer to this problem.”
“Those who are in positions of power refuse to hold these police accountable,” said Nekima Levy-Armstrong.
Minneapolis NAACP president Angela Rose Myers pointed out that the policy of the Minneapolis Police Department is supposed to take into account the sanctity of life. “It doesn’t matter if words change if the policy and people’s practice is not actually changed. The essence of sanctity of life does not mean applying it when I feel like the life matters. No life matters in every single incidence in every single case with every single body.”