MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The family of an innocent motorist who was killed when a Minneapolis police officer crashed into him while chasing a suspect called Friday for the officer to be fired and prosecuted.
The crash this week fatally injured Leneal Frazier, 40, an uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who was given a special citation by the Pulitzer Prizes for recording cellphone video of George Floyd’s arrest and death last year.
Police have said Officer Brian Cummings had his lights and siren activated Tuesday as he pursued a suspect in a carjacking and several robberies, and that the suspect ran a red light just before Cummings crashed into Frazier’s vehicle in a residential neighborhood. They have disclosed few other details. Mayor Jacob Frey, who called the crash a “horrific tragedy,” said Thursday that the city will review its police pursuit policy.
Frazier’s relatives plan to sue the city over his death, said one of their lawyers, Jeff Storms, who works with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who negotiated a $27 million settlement for the Floyd family.
“It’s just so messed up,” Orlando Frazier, Leneal Frazier’s brother, said at a news conference with other family members and supporters outside City Hall. “Like, my brother got took away from us for no reason at all, like we don’t even know the reason, we don’t really know what happened, we haven’t even seen my brother’s body.”
The family and supporters also called on Gov. Tim Walz to ask Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over and prosecute the officer, as Ellison did in the cases of the four ex-officers charged in Floyd’s death, because they have no confidence in Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Activists have long complained that Freeman has been reluctant to prosecute police officers in the deaths of Black people. Leneal Frazier was Black.
“This is about race,” Storms said, referring to a 2016 USA Today investigation that found that African Americans — innocent bystanders and those fleeing officers — have been killed in police chases at a rate nearly three times higher than everyone else nationwide.
“When someone says this isn’t about race, that’s ignoring the various systematic race issues that are at play here — how law enforcement polices Black communities, the aggression with which law enforcement polices in particular our Black brothers and sisters,” Storms said.
Freeman spokeswoman Lacy Severins said the county attorney’s office can’t comment because the case hasn’t been submitted to prosecutors.
Storms said the family needs to learn more facts and see more evidence before proceeding with a lawsuit. He declined to say when the family might file it or what kind of damages or other relief relatives may seek.
“But will there be a lawsuit? You betcha,” Storms said. And he went on to suggest that it might be better if the city simply settles rather than forces the family to go through a drawn-out lawsuit. “The city of Minneapolis is going to ask itself, and has to ask itself, ‘What kind of precedent are we going to set now?’”