Minneapolis police officer Brian Cummings was pursuing a suspect in a stolen vehicle when he crashed into the Jeep of an innocent Black motorist at 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood this past July. Now, Cummings is being charged with two felonies.
Leneal Frazier was moving through a green light when a suspect’s vehicle flew through the intersection and nearly hit him. Seconds later, Cummings’ squad car with its lights flashing and sirens blaring, actually did hit and kill the 40-year-old.
The Root reported that Frazier was also Darnella Frazier’s uncle. She was the 17-year-old bystander who captured video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020, setting off a summer of worldwide protests against police brutality. The teenager also won a special Pulitzer for the footage.
“Another Black man lost his life in the hands of the police!” said Frazier’s niece, according to CBS News. “I asked my mom several times ‘he died??’ I couldn’t accept what I was hearing and still can’t.”
CBS reports that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced on Friday that Cummings has been charged with manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the fatal crash.
According to the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, CBS notes, Cummings could face up to 20 years in prison. Both of the charges carry a presumptive sentence of four years. A hearing is set for Nov. 9.
Here’s what happened during the car chase that ended Frazier’s life, from CBS:
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.
The Associated Press reports that an accident reconstruction report attributes the crash to “the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists.”
The Minneapolis Police Department’s police manual does not allow car chases for only auto theft. However, the suspect that Cummings was pursuing was believed to have been involved in robberies at several businesses.
According to AP, Freeman also said in his statement that Minnesota law enforcement agencies need to change pursuit policies in order to better protect civilians. He notes that state agencies have already reported 40 fatal injuries that occurred during car chases between 2013 and 2020.
“This must stop,” Freeman wrote. “Pursuits must be reserved for only the most serious crimes and cases.”
Cummings was released on his own recognizance without bail ahead of his hearing, according to AP.
Ben Crump, who represents the Frazier family, is on the same page as the prosecutor in a statement released 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,” Crump wrote.