Minneapolis cop charged in pursuit crash that killed innocent driver

A man speaks at a lecturn.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman speaks to reporters Friday about the charges his office brought against Minneapolis police officer Brian Cummings.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 6:36 p.m.

A Minneapolis police officer who crashed his squad car into another vehicle this past summer during a pursuit and killed an innocent motorist has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide. The charges were signed Thursday and announced Friday morning.

Officer Brian Cummings’ marked squad, with lights and sirens on, slammed into the driver’s side of Leneal Frazier’s Jeep at nearly 80 mph in north Minneapolis in the early hours of July 6, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said. Frazier, 40, died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Cummings, 37, was pursuing another vehicle suspected of being stolen and involved in several nonviolent business thefts. The chase ran for more than 20 blocks through north Minneapolis, including residential neighborhoods, with speeds at or near 100 mph, charging documents say.

The driver of the stolen vehicle Cummings was pursuing was never arrested, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters.

A man is reflected in glass as he speaks from a lecturn.
Police departments across the state need stricter pursuit policies, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Freeman said he didn't know if his office had ever brought such charges against an officer for an on-duty crash.

Police departments across the state need to have stricter pursuit policies that are strictly enforced, he added. "Before such speedy chases are done, they have to be violent crimes or guns have to be involved.”

Frazier had a green light and an obstructed view at the time of the collision, Freeman’s office said.

Frazier family members and supporters have called for the prosecution of the officer. An attorney for the Frazier family on Friday called the charges welcome news.

Leneal Frazier's niece Darnella Frazier recorded the viral video of the murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of George Floyd.

Attorney Tom Plunkett, who is representing Cummings in the case, said his client has fully cooperated with the investigation and that many questions remain about what happened.

“My preliminary investigation reveals this tragedy began with a violent carjacking,” Plunkett said in a written statement. The vehicle had ties to at least four criminal acts that night, he wrote, adding that the “car’s occupants were on a crime spree.”

Cummings’ first court appearance is set for Nov. 9.

Correction: (Oct. 22, 2021): A previous version of this story had an incorrect age for Brian Cummings.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.