Minneapolis Police Officer Brian Cummings has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide for fatally crashing his squad car into a pedestrian vehicle, causing the death of 40-year-old Leneal Frazier, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.
Leneal Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, whose phone footage of George Floyd’s May 25, 2020, murder at the knee of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin sparked a global cry for police reform.
Shortly after the fatal collision, Darnella Frazier took to Facebook to express her grief. “The police made a bad decision by doing a high-speed chase on a residential road. That bad decision cost my uncle his life,” she wrote.
Cummings was in pursuit of a stolen vehicle in North Minneapolis when his marked squad car slammed into the driver’s side of Frazier’s Jeep at nearly 80 mph. Injuries Frazier sustained as a result of the collision were the cause of his death.
Minneapolis police car pursuit policy states that “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…” and that officers should “always be aware of the inherent danger to the public and to themselves in vehicle pursuits or emergency responses.”
The policy also states that police car chases should not be initiated unless “the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe the suspect has committed a serious and violent felony or gross misdemeanor.”
“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 stated.
“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.
According to the criminal complaint, on July 6 around 12:30 am, Officer Cummings saw a Kia Sportage matching the description of a stolen vehicle suspected to be involved in several non-violent thefts from businesses.
Cummings attempted to initiate a traffic stop of the Kia but was unable to do so. The Kia sped off, and Cummings pursued the vehicle in his marked squad car with sirens and lights activated, the complaint states.
The chase continued for more than 20 blocks through North Minneapolis, including residential neighborhoods.
At high speeds—at or approaching 100 mph—Cummings followed the Kia through numerous stop signs, red lights, and partially obstructed intersections, many of which blocked the view of approaching vehicles, the complaint continues.
While Cummings pursued the Kia northbound on Lyndale Avenue North, and just before reaching the intersection of 41st Avenue North and Lyndale Avenue North, Cummings was driving at 90 mph. This is a speed for which it takes approximately 337 feet to come to a complete stop, necessary to avoid any collisions or accidents, the complaint states.
The posted speed limit in that area is 25 mph.
As the chase continued, Frazier’s Jeep was entering the intersection, adhering to the green light which gave him the right of way. The Kia and Cummings both had a red light as the Kia drove through the intersection at nearly 100 mph, barely missing Frazier’s Jeep, the complaint says. Cummings’ squad car entered the intersection against the red light and hit Frazier’s Jeep on the driver’s side.
Following the fatal collision, accident reconstruction compiled through technology found in Cummings’ squad car and area surveillance footage revealed that Cummings hit Frazier’s Jeep at roughly 78 mph, the complaint states. Frazier’s Jeep was estimated to be going 25 mph.
Accident reconstruction further 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.”
Cummings’ first appearance will be scheduled in the coming days.
Reacting to reports of Cummings’ charges on Friday, Darnella Frazier responded on social media with a simple, “I love you uncle.”
—Information provided in part by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.