Minneapolis police officer charged with manslaughter and homicide in the death of Leneal Frazier
Minneapolis police officer Brian Cummings is facing two felony charges after his squad car hit another car, killing its driver, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced Friday. The driver, Leneal Frazier, was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who won a special Pulitzer prize for filming the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
"Police are supposed to protect and serve citizens, and to act in a manner consistent with their sworn oath to do so," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. "Officer Cummings' actions deviated from his oath and his negligence caused the death of Leneal Frazier."
While on duty on July 6, Cummings pursued a stolen vehicle whose driver was suspected of various thefts, officials said. The officer, who joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2008, was going 90 miles per hour in an area with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour when his squad car collided with a car that was driving through a green light and was not involved in the chase. The driver, later identified as Frazier, was killed.
Surveillance video obtained by CBS Minnesota showed the moment when Frazier's car was hit in the middle of the intersection. The momentum pushes both his car and the squad car into a third stopped vehicle nearby and ignited the cars in flames. The traffic light at the intersection did not appear to have Opticon technology, which allows police and first responders to switch light signals in emergency situations, CBS Minnesota reported.
Cummings has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide.
"This collision can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists," a report from accident reconstruction determined.
At the time of Frazier's death, Darnella said on Facebook that she was in shock and was "so hurt."
"Another black man lost his life in the hands of the police!" she said at the time. "I asked my mom several times 'he died??' I couldn't accept what I was hearing and still can't."
Cummings could face up to 20 years behind bars, according to the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes.
"These charges are appropriate based on the thorough investigation conducted," Freeman said. "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."
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Frazier's family, said he and his team are "grateful for the charges brought against Brian Cummings for the reckless killing of Leneal Frazier."
"No innocent civilian should ever lose their life because of unwarranted high-speed chases in residential neighborhoods," Crump said in a statement on Friday. "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."
Cummings will have his first court appearance scheduled in the coming days, according to the county attorney's office.
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