Minnesota State Trooper Charged with Manslaughter in Driver Shooting

Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a Minnesota state trooper with second-degree murder in the shooting of a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop last summer in Minneapolis.

The announcement of charges against Trooper Ryan Londregan in the death of driver Ricky Cobb II followed an investigation that exposed tensions between law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

Trooper Londregan is the first police officer to be Mary Moriarty, The chief prosecutor of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, charged in the on-duty shooting. Ms. Moriarty, a former public defender, was elected in 2022 and promised sweeping changes following the 2020 killing of George Floyd, including with stronger efforts to hold officials accountable for misconduct.

Legal experts say prosecutors have become more willing to indict law enforcement officers since Mr. Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking a national outcry over police abuse and racism. Despite this, criminal charges in such cases remain rare, and when they are brought, prosecutors struggle to secure convictions.

In addition to the charge of second-degree murder, Trooper Londregan was charged with first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter.

Peter B. Wold, an attorney for Trooper Londregan, 27, did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Mr. Cobb, a 33-year-old black man, was fatally shot on July 31 after state troopers, including Trooper Londregan, who is white, stopped him on Interstate 94 for driving without his tail lights on. according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

During the stop, troopers determined that Mr. Cobb was subject to arrest on suspicion of violating a protective order involving a former romantic partner, officials said.

Police body camera footage published shortly after the shooting showed the sequence of events.

Officer Brett Seide, one of three officers at the scene, asked Mr. Cobb to get out of his car while Officer Seide stood by the driver’s side door. Mr. Cobb, who was alone in the car, can be heard questioning the request and demanding to know if there was a warrant for his arrest.

Constable Londregan, who was standing on the passenger side of the car, can be seen opening the door and reaching inside in an attempt to force Mr Cobb out, dashcam footage shows. Trooper Seide did the same on the driver’s side. Almost immediately, Mr. Cobb’s vehicle can be seen circling forward.

As the car began to move, Trooper Londregan fired his gun twice, hitting Mr. Cobb in the torso, officials said. Soldiers Seide and Londregan fell to the ground as the car sped away.

Mr. Cobb drove about a quarter of a mile before his car came to rest on the side of the highway. He died at the scene, officials said.

At the time of the traffic stop, Officer Londregan had been a police officer for about a year and a half. He is now on paid leave.

Prosecutors said the troopers’ actions that night were contrary to how they were trained to remove an uncooperative person from a vehicle. As for policy, the prosecution’s charging document states, “troopers should make every effort not to place themselves in a position that would increase the possibility that the vehicle they are approaching could be used as a lethal weapon.”

Investigators who searched Mr. Cobb’s vehicle after his death found a handgun on the floor behind the center console, according to Bureau of Apprehension, the state agency that investigates police shootings.

The gun was not visible on police body camera footage, and no evidence has emerged publicly that troopers knew there was a gun in the vehicle before Mr. Cobb’s death. Mr. Cobb was not allowed to legally own a gun in Wisconsin because he was convicted of domestic violence in 2017, according to court records.

Shortly after his death, Mr. Cobb’s relatives and civil rights activists in Minnesota called on elected officials to fire and charge the soldiers involved. Relatives of Mr. Cobb meth in August with Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, and separately with Ms. Moriarty.

Union representing state troopers called a meeting with the governor “inappropriate,” arguing that it could unduly affect the criminal investigation.

As prosecutors began investigating the murder, Ms. Moriarty said from her office was at a standstill by State Patrol officers who refused to cooperate.

In recent years, Minnesota prosecutors have tended to take cases involving police use of deadly force before grand juries, leaving them to determine whether the officer’s conduct constituted a crime. In the Minneapolis area, prosecutors often asked a district attorney in another county or the state’s attorney general to handle police deadly force cases.

When she ran for office, Ms. Moriarty said she did not like such arrangements. Her campaign website promised that, if elected, she would make her own decisions to bring charges against police officers, to “allow the people of Hennepin County to hold her accountable for those decisions.”

In this case, Ms. Moriarty said the decision to indict was made by her and her team, not by a grand jury.

Ms Moriarty said Wednesday had been a difficult day for the families of Mr Cobb and Trooper Londregan.

“Our community continues to deal with the mounting trauma and grief resulting from the tragic loss of members of our community at the hands of the police,” she said.

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